WOBX is launching a weekly commentary, “Sound Strategy”, from our publisher Clark Twiddy that will feature issues, ideas and information focused on our mission statement of “Covering the Business News of the Greater Outer Banks”.
As our visitor economy regionally continues to evolve based on several years of remarkable growth, we’re reminded that the only way to really interpret this growth — and what it means for the future — is with the right kinds of intentional context.
In a recent example of context, the state trade group that represents a large number of vacation rental management companies this week held its annual meeting. The emerging lessons from those conversations are repeating along our shores.
The headliner for the North Carolina’s Vacation Rental Managers Association event was North Carolina’s Commerce Secretary Machelle Sanders, a proud Belhaven native.
She mentioned that North Carolina’s overall tourism engine is a $30 billion dollar-a-year business and that visitor spending over the past several years had increased in all one hundred North Carolina counties. In just about every category, tourism is up by 20 or even 30% over the past few years alone.
She was seconded in this analysis by Whit Tuttle, the North Carolina’s tourism director, who also won state Director of the Year in the entire country for 2022.
Whit mentioned that the lodging industry within the overall visitor economy generated more than six billion dollars in revenue.
On a positive note, vacation rentals clearly led the way out of the pandemic for much of the state’s tourism industry.
The industry overall continues to support more than 200,000 full-time jobs across the State and supports a conclusion that North Carolina’s overall economy is the envy of much of the nation.
That kind of big-picture tourism vibrancy is great news economically for the Outer Banks region–our area continues to see strong and unique combinations of vacation rental options within a day’s drive of the majority of our nation’s growing population.
We also know that strong growth comes with strong challenges–the industry event highlighted ever-shrinking labor pools, and the Secretary herself focused on the workforce pipeline in her future-facing comments.
Locally, we know that workforce is available only when things like housing, healthcare, childcare, and other work-life foundations have been achieved. Our ability to solve those challenges will lay the keystones of our economic future.
The N.C. Travel and Tourism Coalition is unique in that it represents a statewide coalition of private and public groups, all intending to highlight the possibilities of the tourism and travel sector.
Our future, more locally, would be well-served by a similar coalition with a shared intent of solving the basics of the workforce challenge.
Overall, we continue to live in our visitor economy that drives not only regional vibrancy but also statewide vibrancy. We’re all benefitting, directly or indirectly, from collected tax revenues from the industry, but we also all share in the challenges of it.
Churchill, that master of quotes, once mentioned that good problems, although more agreeable, were no less challenging to solve. We are fortunate not only to have good problems but to have them in North Carolina.
Clark Twiddy is president of Twiddy & Company and serves as president on the board of the North Carolina Vacation Rental Managers Association (NCVRMA).