The subject of tourism has been met with its share of criticism and skepticism in Carroll County as of late. With high gasoline prices supposedly causing a decline in visitors to such popular destinations as Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Branson, Missouri, many naysayers have said tourism can’t possibly be the answer for Carroll County and a surrounding region reeling from increasing layoffs in the industrial world.
A recent annual economic impact of tourism compiled by the Travel Industry of America for the Virginia Tourism Corporation contradicts those notions, however. Statewide, the data shows an increase of 5.8 percent in visitor spending from 2006 to 2007. According to the Carroll County Tourism Office, Carroll is doing even better as 2007 figures show tourism generated $54,076,055 in visitor spending, supported 628 jobs and generated $1,639,020 in taxes to support the community in 2007. That’s an increase of 6 percent over the previous year.
If anything, Carroll County Tourism Director Donnie Turner said high gasoline prices have helped tourism in Carroll County as folks are more inclined to visit places closer to home rather than take longer, more expensive trips to the beach, etc. He said the county is marketing itself to folks in Washington, D.C., Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., etc. for day trips and three- and four-day trips. That strategy appears to be paying off.
Nobody can predict the economy, the future of gasoline prices, or traveler tendencies. But one can easily surmise that the area isn’t going to experience a sudden boom of industry, at least not any time in the near future. With that in mind, Carroll County should continue forward with its focus on tourism and the revenue it generates locally.