One of my duties in addition to being your Mayor, is to serve as Chairman of the Crystal Coast Tourism Authority (TDA). Significant steps are being taken by the TDA to increase tourism in the spring and fall, when there is plenty of available capacity. Increased tourism during the spring and fall places no additional strain on our infrastructure, and significantly helps those businesses that are heavily dependent on seasonal business.
National Tourism Week is celebrated from May 13 – 21, 2006 and this is a good time to focus on the importance of a healthy tourism industry for all of us. The Tourism industry is especially important to Emerald Isle and all of Carteret County. Tourism is Carteret County’s largest economic generator, generating $236 million in economic impact in calendar year 2004. Tourism accounts for more than 3,320 jobs in Carteret County and saves each tax payer $437 annually. 2005 statistics will be released soon and they are expected to show increases over the 2004 numbers, and so far, 2006 looks like it will show significant improvement over 2005.
Tourism adds value to Carteret County residents in more ways than monetary. It creates a demand for services that could not be supported based on our year round population alone. Over the last several years, the county has seen many new restaurants, retail shops, grocery stores, garden centers, etc. that provide greater variety and convenience for all of us. For me personally, I enjoy the change of pace, with many visitors in the summer, and a relatively sparse population in the winter. Each summer I renew friendships with visitors and second home owners that are not around in the winter. Hearing their stories about their home towns and how wonderful they think Emerald Isle is, always makes me stop to think and reflect on how lucky we are to live in a place like Emerald Isle. We can always make things better here, but our visitors chuckle at many of the things that we think are problems.
When you run into visitors this summer, reflect on how important they are to all of us. Make them welcome and encourage them to vacation here in the future. We certainly have great natural beauty, and a wealth of activities to keep the most adventurous visitors busy and the Crystal Coast is known for its warm hospitality.