Tourism Task Force considers promotional brochure

Published 9:18 am Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tourism Task Force
When families, retirees, college students and sportsmen have a free day, how do they decide where to go and what to do?
The Tourism Task Force is working on a project that will answer that question with direction to Carter County recreation, dining and cultural immersion.
“We wanted something that would help capitalize on the existing tourism elements and then to advertise it, and we came up with the ‘day trip,’” said Elizabethton Director of Planning and Economic Development Jon Hartman. “Tourism is a significant industry for our area, and that means jobs.”
In its Monday meeting, members discussed the creation of a day trip brochure, which would direct visitors and residents from within a 2-hour radius to three different categories of activities: action and adventure, culture and heritage, and shopping and dining.
“Tourism studies show that people will travel about an hour for four hours of activity, so we felt day trip concept would help tourism and bring people from the region within a 2-hour drive time to spend their Saturday, Sunday or holiday to explore our city and area,” said Hartman.
Each “day” in the brochure is laid out with eight hours of activity. For example, if a family took a weekend day trip with an interest in shopping and dining, the guide would direct them to some of the shops and restaurants that make Elizabethton unique.
“With each category, we want to highlight what is unique about Elizabethton, so we would feature local restaurants like The Coffee Company, Jiggy Rays and Ridgewood BBQ and a variety of antique stores and boutiques like Betsy Mercantile, Lingerfelt Gift Center or Corner Nest Antique Mall,” said Hartman. “We are asking what are the big anchors in our downtown and county, and what do we uniquely have in Elizabethton that you cant get anywhere else?”
In the culture and heritage day trip, he said visitors would be directed to the house on Sabine Hill, Sycamore Shoals State Park, Covered Bridge Park, the Carter Mansion, Overmountain Trail or to site-see homes in the historic district.
If people picked it up and were particularly interested in visiting for outdoor recreation, he said the brochure would direct them to hiking the Holston Mountain Fire Tower Trail, kayaking on Watauga Lake, mountain biking on the Hampton Watershed Trails or swimming at the Blue Hole.
Because many of these locations may be difficult for non-locals to find, he said they are discussing the creation of a Google map which would make routing direction to these locations easier. This link would be accessible from existing webpages, further increasing the visibility of the sites and experiences the county has to offer.
The concept is in its preliminary phase, he said, so details would have to be finalized before printing and marketing the day trip concept could officially begin. The focus currently is to attract visitors to the city and within a 10-minute drive of the city, but Hartman said the concept could easily be applied to a county-wide approach, including a fourth category for activities in the Hampton and Roan Mountain communities.
He hopes the promotional packages will attract increasing numbers of visitors to the area as well as serving as an attraction for interested hoteliers.
“We feel this is a good starting point and it serves duel purpose, so that when we go to market Elizabethton to a potential hotelier, we’ll have better numbers of visitors which will help recruiting a hotel,” said Hartman.
Research is underway by members of the Task Force, including Hartman, Chamber of Commerce Director Tonya Stevens and Task Force Chair Cody McQueen, to determine occupancy rates at cabins and hotels.
“We want to know how many people are staying and how many days per year they are occupied and then to use those numbers to get a better idea of what kind of demand we can offer a hotelier,” said Hartman.
Discussion has been ongoing among members of the Task Force and in other local committees of the need for a new hotel in order to better accommodate visitors, potential developers and visiting families. A new hotel and increased occupancy would also contribute to an increase in hotel/motel tax revenue, which directly funds tourism initiatives.
“We’re identifying the drivers for a hotel to be able to give them numbers and prove it is a good investment,” said Hartman.

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