Salisbury City Council hears update on county’s tourism industry
Published 12:06 am Thursday, September 7, 2023
SALISBURY — Rowan County is home to many premiere destinations and special events that attracts visitors from across the state and country. As the effects of COVID subside, the county has focused on providing the best possible service for tourists.
During the Sept. 5 Salisbury City Council meeting, Executive Director of Rowan County Tourism Development Authority James Meacham gave an update about where things stand for the city and county from a tourism perspective and what is planned going forward.
Rowan County Tourism’s purpose is to form “economic development through tourism.” This is accomplished by developing tourism assets, stimulate visitor travel, produce marketing strategies and partner with local businesses and agencies. Tourism development authorities have the power to create non-profits and own property like cities and counties, but cannot incur private debt.
Meacham said that while Rowan County did have their tourism numbers decrease during COVID, it was not as bad as what other similar communities endured. By 2022, visitor spending in Rowan County went up by 11.7 percent equaling $209 million. This influx has resulted in over 1,400 jobs and $44 million has come from just the lodging division.
Rowan County Tourism has three areas of focus: marketing, services and development. In terms of marketing, the county is taking a modern, digital approach. They have hired influencers to promote Rowan County and have given the county website new life as a way for people to book stays. The county has been attracting more people by incentivizing them with discounts and deals to convince them to buy specific packages.
The services Rowan County Tourism offers is numerous and eclectic. They have actually owned and operated the F&M Bank trolley system since 2007. Other entities they manage include the Railwalk Pavilion, Paul E. Fisher Gateway Building, visitor information center and the Rowan Arts Council.
Destination development is what Meacham describes as the county’s “capital product” from a tourism standpoint.
“We really have to look at what are we building for the future and what are we building for tomorrow,” Meacham said. That encompasses the Railwalk Pavilion, buying public art for the city, the trolley system, and public infrastructure. Upcoming projects include a countywide wayfinding system and a railwalk alley development in Salisbury that would be adjacent to the pavilion.
Meacham says the city has pulled back tourism services in order to create a more sustainable market that is more adaptive to what the industry is like now. He stated that the tourism industry is “healthy” and that they will continue to push their digital platforms and present incentives for people who are thinking of visiting the county.