By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners and Tarboro Town Council are working together to promote local tourism.
Candis Owens, Tarboro Town councilwoman, has been a proponent of a hotel occupancy tax to generate revenue to promote tourism from day one, a tax that the board of commissioners now has the authorization to levy. To Owens, the promotion of tourism in the county is “long overdue.”
“It is an economic development tool,” Owens said. Assistant County Manager Eric Evans agrees.
“Tourism brings dollars from outside of the county into the county,” Evans said. “It becomes one more leg in our economic development stool in that it draws people in to spend money.”
“Tourism is a big industry in North Carolina and we need to do all we can to attract people to the county,” said N.C. Rep. Joe Tolson.
In 2010 alone, domestic tourism in Edgecombe County generated an economic impact of $49.05 million, according to North Carolina Commerce statistics.
In Evans’ view, the county has a great deal of potential in tourism that it hasn’t yet “tapped into.”
“We’ve got great things to share in the county that we think people would be interested in,” Evans said.
To him, the key is to present visitors with a package of activities, such as hunting, fishing and canoeing, so that they will spend the night in the county. Along with outdoor activities, Evans said he would like to market the county’s cultural attractions, such as the performance arts series at Edgecombe Community College.
Tolson pointed out the tourist attractions the county has to offer.
“We’ve got some great historic sites, some great restaurants,” said Tolson. He mentioned Tarboro’s Town Common, one of only two original town commons in the United States, as another draw for visitors. Tolson’s hope is that Edgecombe County will work with surrounding counties to promote everything that Eastern North Carolina has to offer to visitors.
Owens said her vision for tourism in the area is to promote “who we are and our great heritage and history.”
“We are a great jewel, in the rough,” Owens said. “Outsiders just need to know that we exist and the only way they will know is if we tell them. Tax dollars will then flow into our town and county and new entrepreneurial jobs will be created, as a result.”
To Owens, the target market for tourism in the county includes U.S. Highway 64 and Interstate 95 travelers on their way to or from the beach, those coming to the county for sports tournaments, “eco-tourists,” such as hunters, fishermen, campers and boaters, Civil War Trail enthusiasts and history buffs who can visit Princeville, the first town incorporated by African-Americans in the United States.