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JCVB Blog

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau BLOG is published weekly with news and feature articles on visiting the county.

Meet Our 2017 Visitors Guide

Meet Our 2017 Visitors Guide

The ink has just finished drying on our brand new Visitors Guide, also known as the "be a tourist in your town" guide.

We here at the JCVB are certainly excited to be bringing you a wealth of information in this compact brochure. The Johnston County visitors guide includes where to stay, shop, dine, drink, explore, tour, and experience the best of JoCo. Also included in the guide is a list of annual events and the months in which they occur, a guide to recreation in the county, and a list of wedding and event venues.

Visitors can find the guide in welcome centers and visitors centers around North Carolina. If you're already in Johnston County then our guide can be found in your hotel, at the Carolina Premium Outlets, and in most of our tourism partners' businesses like museums and restaurants in the towns of Benson, Four Oaks, Selma, Smithfield, Clayton, Cleveland, and Kenly.

The guide is used by the JCVB through-out the year as a promotional tool at media events, trade shows, sales appointments, and industry events to showcase the best that Johnston County's business owners and locals have to offer visitors, groups, journalists, and brides!


You can click the photo below to access a PDF version of the 2017 Visitors Guide.

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Read the JCVB 2015-16 Annual Report

Read the JCVB 2015-16 Annual Report

Click here to read the Johnston County Visitors Bureau’s 2015-16 Annual Report with financial statements and highlights from the activities of the staff.  The JCVB staff is engaged every day in promoting Johnston County, our hotels, shopping, attractions, and events to attract visitors to our county…who are leaving their dollars behind!!!  

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Visit NC Team announced that domestic visitors to and within Johnston County spent $221.72 million in 2015, an increase of 3.2 percentage from 2014.  Tourism growth in the county continues to be strong and already in 2016 revenues are at record heights.

Our marketing and communication efforts are primarily focused outside the county and along our interstates to reach the traveler who has many choices on where to stop and stay along the way.  However, in 2017 we are committed to increasing the communication to our internal customers within Johnston County on the mission of the Bureau. This includes our continued partnerships with the tourism industry, non-profit organizations in the county, our town tourism marketing committees, the Johnston County Sports Council, and the Johnston County Hospitality Association.  

Our primary goal which is mandated by enabling legislation is to utilize the local room tax to market our tourism industry partners helping to bring economic prosperity to the county.  However, we also want you to know us as an agency and our vision for tourism in the county.  We invite you to connect to us on social media, visit our offices, or attend a board meeting... working together we will continue to see great things happen in Johnston County!

With warm regards,


Donna Bailey-Taylor, CDME
President/CEO

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2015 Visitor Impact Numbers for Johnston County Released

2015 Visitor Impact Numbers for Johnston County Released


Visit North Carolina announced this week that domestic visitors to Johnston County spent $221.72 million in 2015, an increase of 3.2 percent from 2014.

"Not only did our visitor spending increase in calendar year 2015 as the results of the VisitNC study indicates, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau continues to invest in tourism development projects. Last year the bureau awarded $70,000 in Capital Grant Projects, as well as, completed the county-wide Parks & Recreation Study, spearheaded the Smithfield Wayfinding Project, and grew the membership of the JoCo Hospitality Association," stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, President/CEO.

A top priority from the above mentioned County-Wide Parks & Recreation Master Plan is to hire a Recreation Director and complete the 14-mile stretch of the Mountains to Sea Trail between Clayton and Smithfield.

Tourism impact highlights for 2015:
•    The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 1,770 people in Johnston County.
•    Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Johnston County was $34.65 million.
•    State tax revenue generated in Johnston County totaled $12.46 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. Approximately $5.55 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses.
•    If not for the $18.01 million in state and local taxes paid by tourists visiting Johnston County, each of the 60,700 county households would pay $297 more in taxes to replace tax revenue generated by tourism spending.

Gov. Pat McCrory announced in May that visitors to North Carolina set a record for spending in 2015. The $21.96 billion in total spending represented an increase of 3 percent from 2014.
These statistics are from the “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2015,” which can be accessed at partners.visitnc.com/economic-impact-studies. The study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by the U.S. Travel Association.

“All eight economic development regions of the state had spending growth of 2 percent or more, and 91 percent of the state’s counties saw direct tourism employment growth from 2014 to 2015,” said Wit Tuttell, Executive Director of Visit North Carolina. “Tourism continues to be a major driver of economic development across North Carolina, which is the sixth most-visited state in the country.”

Statewide highlights include:
•    State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending rose 6.1 percent to top $1.1 billion in 2015.
•    Visitors spend more than $60 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds nearly $4.9 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $3.1 million in state taxes and $1.8 million in local taxes).
•    The travel and tourism industry directly employees more than 211,000 North Carolinians.
•    Each North Carolina household saves $475 in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state.

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau oversees the marketing efforts for the county to attract and serve visitors, therefore increasing the economic impact for the local economy. The Visitors Bureau is fully funded by the 3 percent hotel room tax paid by overnight visitors to the county.  In addition, the Towns of Benson, Kenly, Selma, and Smithfield have a 2% occupancy tax that is managed by the Visitors Bureau and is dedicated to each town's marketing efforts.  

If you are interested in learning more the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, visit the website, www.johnstoncountync.org. In addition, visitors and locals to Johnston County alike can always find out what’s happening in the area by visiting www.johnstoncountyevents.com which lists detailed information on festivals, entertainment, and fun happenings in JoCo through out the year.

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Tourism Director Celebrates 20 Years with JCVB

Tourism Director Celebrates 20 Years with JCVB

Donna Bailey-Taylor, Director of the Johnston County Tourism Authority, recently celebrated 20 years in her position. I sat down to ask her a few questions about how Johnston County's tourism industry has grown over the two decades since she started working to bring tourists to JoCo. I also asked about her experience in the Travel Tourism industry and what she thinks the future holds for tourism in Johnston County.

You’ve been at the JCVB for 20 years, but how long have you worked in the Travel and Tourism industry?

So all together I have been in the hospitality industry for thirty-five years. I began my career working in the hotel industry, first in sales for Hilton Hotels and later working for hotel development companies in regional sales and marketing.  I have opened hotels from the ground up and traveled extensively to support sales efforts for multiple brands.

As I started a family, the need to get off the road was important to me, so I transitioned to work for a convention and visitors bureau.  Since I was used to promoting whole communities and selling experiences, the move was a natural fit for me.  

What drew you to this industry?

After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Industrial Relations, the jobs available to me all seemed to be in manufacturing or banking.  Also, it was 1981 and the unemployment rate was 22% in North Carolina.  I tried hotel sales and found out I was good at it!  I discovered I enjoyed meeting people and providing a service.  

What keeps you in this industry?

The variety of tasks each day continues to make my job rich and enjoyable.  From designing the next ad campaign or revamping the Visitors Guide, then community planning for new wayfinding signage or working with area museum boards to provide engaging visitor experiences….it’s diverse and ever changing.  I don’t think I could do the same task day in and day out.  

What has changed in tourism for Johnston County over the course of 2 decades?

With Johnston County being one of the fastest growing counties, not only in North Carolina but in the nation, tourism has grown fast as well.  When I started here in August of 1996, our annual operating budget was around $325,000 and today it tops $1.2 million.  Tourism marketing today has changed tremendously with the creation of social media, hand-held marketing devices we call mobile phones, and the niche marketing campaigns needed to reach the right customer, at the right time, with the right message.  

I would have to say 20 years ago, having billboards and a visitors guide were our primary goals, and today our marketing plan targets leisure travelers, sports tournaments, girlfriend shopping get-a-ways, and culinary travelers with the development of the Beer, Wine and Shine Trail.

What challenges do rural destinations face in marketing themselves?

Funding and staffing resources are often the first challenges because there never seems to be enough of either in small Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs).  And second, getting the attention of community leaders, state offices and residents on the importance of tourism to the community.  Our industry is made up of small businesses, but collectively visitor spending in hotels, restaurants, travel services, dining, shopping and area attractions is huge…it’s a big deal and in some rural communities it may have the potential to be their number one industry.

What have you accomplished at the JCVB that you’re particularly proud of?

Tourism development projects where our staff has volunteered countless hours helping to establish the Ava Gardner Museum, the Benson Museum of Local History, marketing for the Bentonville re-enactment, completing the county-wide Parks & Recreation Master Plan, and serving on many boards to lend our talents to the tourism industry…I feel this has been a grass-roots effort to build up the tourism infrastructure in the county.  You don’t see that commitment in many bureaus, who only see their job as driving visitors to the area.  In an emerging destination, building up the visitor experience is so important.  We want to be more than a stop-over on the way to some other destination – and more than “half-way between New York and Florida”.  

What would you like to accomplish still?

I would like to see the completion of the Mountains to Sea Trail between the towns of Clayton and Smithfield and the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site get a new state of the art Visitor Center with new exhibits, something the Friends of Bentonville group has been working on for many years.  

Also, I would like to see the Visitors Bureau secure a permanent home for our offices, as we have been renting space for more than 25 years.

You have family roots in the Benson area, what does working to promote Johnston County mean to you?

To me, this job is more than working to promote Johnston County – my heart is full of wonderful memories spent on the Bailey Farm just outside of Benson.  I feel we need to work toward preserving our heritage, whether it be farming, Civil War battlefields, or our connection to Hollywood.  That’s why over 12 years ago, we held classes on agri-tourism as a way to sustain the family farm and bring revenues to area farmers.  That’s why I continue to volunteer my time and talents to area non-profits.

I believe if we all work together we will all succeed!

How does tourism positively effect residents in Johnston County?

Tourism means dollars for small business owners – in 2015 more than $215 million was spent in Johnston County by visitors.  If the county did not have a strong tourism economy we would not have national brand shopping at our fingertips at Carolina Premium Outlets and dining opportunities like Starbucks, or Chipotle’s which just opened in Smithfield this year.

But just as important to us is showcasing local, independent business owners like Ray Wheeler at Atkinson’s Mill, Rufus Brown at Johnston County Hams and many others that have wonderful stories to tell. Visitors are interested in authenticity and we have plenty to share with them in Johnston County.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

Something creative is my first choice…painting, pottery, and photography to name a few.  Watching movies with my son Trey and reading detective novels on my IPAD.  Nothing fancy… for me, spending time with family is just a perfect day!  

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Benson Announces Hampton Plans

Benson Announces Hampton Plans

It was announced yesterday in a press conference that Benson is getting a hotel right off of I-95 at Exit 79. The news is being received enthusiastically by the community, in part due to the boost it will bring in economic vitality but also because the town and surrounding area are in need of additional accommodation options. Adam Leath, representing the hotel developer Leath Co LLC, and Benson Mayor William Massengill discussed the project at the press conference before revealing that the hotel would fly under the Hampton Inn flag and also presenting building plans to the public.

Leath spoke to the project as something that the town and the county could be proud of, which Massengill echoed had become something of a measurement for Benson's community projects in the last few years, " we want to ask of ourselves, not simply will this project benefit the town, but will it be something that community leaders and members can be proud of."

If the design and atmosphere of the hotel discussed are anything to go by, it will certainly be a contributing addition to the Benson community and the group of hotels that welcome travelers all over Johnston County. The Hampton Inn in Benson is designed for families, tourists, and corporate travelers alike. The 88-room hotel will deliver an atmosphere for a comfortable work environment and a restful stay - including 8 suites, free Wi-Fi in public areas, free in-room high-speed internet access, a clean and fresh Hampton bed®, Hampton’s free hot breakfast, flat screen televisions, complimentary beverage areas, guest laundry, elevators, a fitness center, and an outdoor heated pool.

 The hotel will also offer accessible and pet-friendly rooms with plans already approved by the NC Department of Transportation to install a free-range dog park directly across from the hotel. In addition the hotel features a 1,000 sq. ft. conference center with the latest audio-visual technology and media equipment.

We here at the Johnston County Visitors Bureau are excited about the added room availability that the Hampton will add to our county and the Benson area. Building the Hampton Inn in Benson means it is located less than 20 minutes from Campbell University, 45 minutes from Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU), and 25 minutes from the Johnston County Airport. In addition, as readers of this blog know, Benson has been growing its tourism assets this year thanks to the continued growth of Broadslab Distillery and the opening of GALOT Motorsports Park - both located less than 5 miles from the new hotel site. In fact, 2015 statistics show that 19 million new dollars in private investment went into Benson last year.

During the press conference Mayor Massengill spoke to this growth and the hotel announcement as proof that Benson's leaders and citizens are working to develop Benson into an attractive place to live and visit, "this project is proof of what happens when the private sector, government, and non-profits work together." Adam Leath said that the Leath company, " looks forward to the partnership with Benson and providing a service that is needed in the community." The company anticipates breaking ground in November of 2016 and hopes to open to guests in Fall of 2017.

The news to build a Hampton Inn in Benson comes on the heels of the grand opening of the Country Inn & Suites in Smithfield and proves that Johnston County continues to grow as a tourism destination in North Carolina and along the I-95 corridor. The continued development of Johnston County's economic development and tourism assets means better options for travelers and prosperity for community members.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page and the Visit Benson website for updates on this project as they become available.

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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

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Travel around the county to four award-winning wineries, two breweries and get a taste of brandy along the way!  Receive a Free $30 coupon book when you complete the trail.

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Meeting Planners

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Johnston County offers conveniently located and affordable conference facilities for meetings, reunions, and unique destination weddings sites.  Why not select a historic home or horse farm for your next event?

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Group Tour Operators

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Groups have discovered exits along I-40 and I-95 for outlet shopping, music theatre, museums and heritage sites.  Call today for custom itinerary planning.

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Hotel Packages

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We have created several special hotel packages including a Girlfriends Getaway for outlet shopping, we know you need a break and great deals on shoes!  Click here to book your getaway today.

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