Last week, Visit North Carolina announced findings about the economic impact of tourism across the state. We are proud to say that the tourism numbers in High Point revealed vast improvements. Did you know that Guilford County experienced a 4.71 percent increase in 2014?
We surveyed several businesses in High Point that are actively engaged in tourism and they told us that they experienced similar increases; however, many mentioned that a strong core city would even more dramatically impact those numbers. They verified that there were increases across the board, and that not all of the credit goes to the few weeks of Furniture Market. In fact, much of the increase is due to the year-round visitors coming to High Point as a destination, visiting High Point University, the bi-annual ITMA fabric show “Showtime”, youth and amateur sporting events, and an increasing number of furniture showrooms and retailers open to the public.
While this is all good news, many of those visitors are staying overnight and eating in restaurants in Greensboro due to a lack of infrastructure in the core city that appeals to them. Events like Furniture Market are a great benefit to our entire region and state, but think of how much more of a direct benefit these events could be to High Point if we could capture the visitor’s entire experience. Further, if we developed our core city area with restaurants, retail shops, entertainment and meeting facilities, High Point would be poised to become established as a great destination for all kinds of activities year-round that attract tourists, amateur and youth sporting events and meeting groups. To take full advantage of our location, we need the infrastructure in the core city to capture more of the economic benefits associated with visitors and tourists.
Last year, the HPCVB worked with 78 groups totaling 147,646 people who came to High Point for meetings and other events, thereby generating a tourism impact of $40.9 million. An estimated 30,000 consumers shopping for home furnishings come to the Home Furnishings Capital of the World™ every year. In addition, the High Point Market attracts roughly 75,000 marketgoers each April and October while High Point University attracts more than 80,000 visitors annually.
Hotels like the Courtyard by Marriott regularly tell us they have a waiting list. Wingate by Wyndham is seeing an increase in occupancy due to HPU events and more sporting tournaments. Occupancy at the Radisson Hotel High Point grew modestly in the last year but could be so much more if we populated the area in the core city with more amenities and things to do, for both our visitors as well as for our citizens. We have the backbone for what it takes to capture our fair share of the tourism dollars in the Piedmont Triad area. We need to make this revitalization our top priority for economic development and move on it quickly.