North Carolina ranked 15th among all states, its highest ranking ever, in drawing overseas visitors for 2007. The state drew some 358,000 overseas visitors in 2007, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration and Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.
“We are excited that North Carolina trails only Florida and Georgia among all Southeastern states in overseas visitors,” said Lynn Minges, Executive Director of the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development. “This is a tribute to the great tourism product in our state and the hard work of our tourism industry in those overseas markets.”
North Carolina ranked 18th in 2005, the last time it generated a large enough sample to appear in the study, which uses an in-flight survey given to passengers flying into the United States from international destinations other than Canada and Mexico to determine visitation. The North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development has tourism marketing offices in Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as one in Canada. The offices do joint marketing, agent training, promotions and public relations to the key tour operators selling the south to visitors in German Speaking Europe (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and the United Kingdom.
“In the overseas markets we are gaining steadily and finally eclipsing our pre-2001 numbers,” Minges said. “North Carolina proactively works to attract international visitors to our state from Germany and the United Kingdom. These markets were chosen specifically because they have direct air access to North Carolina and show the most potential to increase the economic benefit to our state.”
The state also conducts economic development and tourism missions to other European countries. Governor Easley and other state officials visited Italy in April on an economic development mission that included meetings with business and tourism interests. Easley met with U.S. Embassy officials in Rome and hosted an event for Italian tourism operators, travel writers and other tourism officials to promote North Carolina as a vacation destination.
Overseas visitors are important to a state’s economic wellness because those visitors typically stay longer and spend significantly more than domestic visitors per trip. According to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, overseas visitors to North Carolina spend an average of $3,476 per trip ($2,568 in North Carolina alone) and stay in the state an average of 12 days, while domestic visitors typically spend $549 per trip and stay in the state an average of 3.3 days, according to TNS TravelsAmerica.
The Division of Tourism recently completed an extremely successful promotion in the United Kingdom tied into the British stage production of Dirty Dancing. The promotion resulted in 15,700 new consumers who signed up for online updates on North Carolina travel; more than 1.4 million consumers saw the North Carolina travel message and the campaign’s media exposure was valued at $10 million.
In Germany, North Carolina has formed an exclusive partnership with PGA Germany providing constant exposure in their e-newsletters and golf tournaments. German passengers flying to Charlotte Douglas Airport increased 51 percent through November 2007 compared to last year.
The Division of Tourism also hosts a number of international travel journalists each year who come on assignment to write or produce positive pieces for international consumer magazines, newspapers, and television about unique places and things to do in North Carolina. The Division’s efforts result in millions of dollars of media exposure in the selected markets every year.
“We have plans to run consumer campaigns in the UK and Canada around the 2008 release of the films Leatherheads and Nights in Rodanthe which were filmed in NC,” Minges added. “Europeans are enamored with American movies and these two, we expect, will be particularly well-received and will spark interest in traveling to the places that were backdrops for these films.”
Wit Tuttell or Jennifer Francioni