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

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

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Stroll Around Historic Smithfield

Stroll Around Historic Smithfield

Historic Downtown Smithfield now has a walking tour that highlights historical buildings, houses, and monuments. The Johnston County Visitors Bureau has designed and printed a brochure regarding the walking tour in partnership with the Johnston County Heritage Center. The brochure includes a map of the downtown area with each stop numbered. In addition, the Heritage Center has provided notes on the historical relevancy of each site. Points of interest like parking, visitor information, dining options, and the Ava Gardner Museum are also pictured on the map.

According to Heritage Center Director Todd Johnson, “taking the Historic Smithfield Walking Tour is not only a healthy activity but will teach you about our town’s history going back to colonial times.”

Johnson mentions that Smithfield offers a wide variety of architectural styles such as Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Second Empire, Colonial Revival, and Gothic Revival. There are several buildings on the tour that have stood since the Civil War, and each one has its own story to tell.

The purpose of creating guides like this one is to showcase the stories and heritage of historical towns like Smithfield. The walking tour adds to the options of things visitors to Smithfield can do and encourages them to discover local businesses along the way like shops and restaurants.

With Fall approaching and the evenings cooling off, visitors and locals alike can explore the walking route for themselves. The walking tour offers a chance to discover something about Smithfield that wasn’t known before. For example, the portion of the Smithfield courthouse facing Market Street was constructed in 1921, but the land that it stands on has been occupied by courthouses since the late 1700s. That’s more than 3 centuries of law and order in one location.

To learn more about these fascinating places or to pick up a brochure for a self-guided tour, please drop by the Heritage Center, 241 E. Market Street, anytime between 9:00AM and 5:00PM, Monday through Saturday. You can also download an electronic version of the walking tour guide on the Johnston County Visitors Bureau website.

If you’ve got friends or family coming into town, or you’re looking for an activity to go with your next office or corporate event, you can also inquire about guided tours of the historic walking route. To schedule a guided tour, call the Johnston County Heritage Center at 919-934-2836, or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   

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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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Johnston County Celebrates National Travel and Tourism Week

Johnston County Celebrates National Travel and Tourism Week

Starting on Monday, and throughout next week, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau (JCVB) will be participating in several events as part of the 33rd Annual National Travel and Tourism Week (May 1-7), which unites communities each year to celebrate what travel means to American jobs, economic growth, and personal well-being.  You will see posts on the JCVB social media about what the travel industry means to America, to North Carolina, to Johnston County, and even to you (yes, you).

According to the US Travel Association, "National Travel and Tourism Week—America's annual salute to travel and tourism—was established by a congressional resolution in 1983. This week of events serves to champion the power of our industry. Travel and tourism professionals from across the nation work throughout the week to promote the impactful contributions their travel markets and organizations make to the US economy."

Celebrating Travel by Encouraging Travel

Each year the JCVB sales teams travels to the NC Welcome Centers at I-95 North and South to interact with visitors showcasing local Johnston County products, hotels, dining and attractions. Talking with visitors as they try locally grown strawberries from Smith's Nursery and Strawberry Farm, or learning about the opening of GALOT Motorsports Park near Benson, the JCVB sales team and industry partners will see more than 700 travelers at the welcome centers on May 5 and 6. Always a treat for visitors is meeting Ray Wheeler from Atkinson's Mill and finding out what a "hush puppy" is, and children love the reptiles brought by Clemmons Educational State Forest in Clayton.  It's a fun day for everyone attending as we showcase all our destinations have to offer.

What Does Travel Mean for Johnston County

Across Johnston County, travel employs a prosperous and diverse workforce, from hotel employees, to restaurant, attraction and retail workers, and supports related sectors such as construction, manufacturing and finance.  “Just look at the numbers. Travel supports one in nine American jobs, including more than 1,700 jobs right here in Johnston County,” said Donna Bailey-Taylor, President/CEO, Johnston County Visitors Bureau. “This week, we are celebrating what travel means to our community, and we call on everyone—from elected officials to local residents—to join us in saluting this important industry.”

Here are some of the 2014 tourism impact numbers from the Economic Development Partnership of NC (also known as VisitNC):

•    The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 1,700 people in Johnston County
•    Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Johnston County was $32.24 million
•    State tax revenue generated in Johnston County totaled $11.63 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. Approximately $5.33 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses

What Does Travel Mean for You

"If not for the $16.96 million in state and local taxes paid by tourists visiting Johnston County, each of the 60,700 county households would pay $282 more in taxes to replace the taxes generated by tourism spending," remarked Bailey-Taylor.  "Tourism has a direct impact for all citizens of Johnston County, thanks to the many visitors traveling through the county along interstates 95, 40 and 70 choosing our destinations for accommodations, shopping, dining, meetings, recreation, and visiting area attractions. Johnston County is primarily a leisure destination and our mission at the Visitor Bureau is not only to serve visitors as they travel on to final destinations, but to create and market hotel packages, festivals, trails and special itineraries to encourage weekend leisure trips and for travelers to select our destination over our competitors."  

So how does this all work you might ask. In most cities and counties the tourism authority is granted an operating budget out of the occupancy tax taken when visitors to the area stay at local hotels. In this way, the tourism authority funds itself; not by taking any money from the citizens of the municipality in which it resides but by taking a percentage of the money that it works to bring into the county. The purpose of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau is to advertise outside the county to attract visitors into the county who will pay an occupancy tax that goes to further fund more advertising to bring more visitors into the county - and so on, like a snowball. But those visitors also pay a sales tax when they visit - to purchase things like food, gas, and souvenirs - which helps local government provide services.

In return, when a Johnston County resident travels to another county, state, or country as a tourist, they pay taxes there that fund continued tourism and prosperity in that destination. Travel then, becomes a cyclical act that we all participate in and gain from. Watch the video below, created by the US Travel Association in celebration of this year's National Travel and Tourism Week.

To learn more about National Travel and Tourism Week 2016 visit the US Travel Association site, or please visit our event page online at: www.johnstoncountync.org/NTW.

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Bureau News and 2015 Annual Report

JCVB Visitor CenterThe Johnston County Tourism Authority welcomes new board members, presents 2015 Annual Report to County Commissioners, and elects officers to lead the board and oversee the operation of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau.  

We are always excited to welcome members of the community to serve on the Tourism Authority Board to help lead the efforts of tourism promotion and development for Johnston County. All board members serve on either the Marketing Committee or Special Projects Committee which work directly with the staff on establishing the annual budget and overseeing all projects by the bureau.

Randy Capps, owner of Shandy Communications whose company prints the Four Oaks Journal, was appointed by the Four Oaks Chamber of Commerce.  Capps replaces Stacey Lee, who resigned in November due to work commitments.  Randy has work experience in journalism and worked for the Fayetteville Observer for eight years.  

Rick Childrey, President of the Greater Smithfield/Selma Chamber of Commerce was appointed by the County Commissioners for a three-year term.  Childrey replaces Warren Stancil, who resigned in August of last year. Childrey has a long-standing relationship with the Visitors Bureau, as the offices for the bureau staff were once located in the Lee House on Outlet Center Drive.  Childrey has been the President of the Smithfield-Selma Area Chamber since 1986.

Election of Officers and Committee Chair Appointments...

The board held open elections for officers to serve for two-year terms.  Keith Brinson, of Farm Bureau Insurance appointed by the Smithfield/Selma Chamber, was elected Chairperson.  Scotty Henley, Executive Director of The Clayton Center appointed by the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, was elected Vice-Chairperson. Lynn Daniels was reelected as Secretary of the Authority, a position she has held for the past two years.

Ernie Brame, Manager of Kenly 95 Petro, was appointed as Chairperson of the Special Events Committee.  Rosa Andrews, Johnston Community College, was appointed Chairperson of the Marketing Committee.  New board members Randy Capps and Rick Childrey will both serve on the Special Project Committee which oversees the Capital and Special Events grant programs.

2015 JCVB Annual Report...

During an extended board meeting the Tourism Authority presented the 2015 Annual Report to the County Commissioners. Highlights and staff accomplishments from 2014/2015, the year-end financial statement, visitor spending numbers and overall state of tourism for Johnston County were discussed. To download or read the JCVB Annual Report -- CLICK HERE. 

Other bureau news...

Sarah Campbell, Sports and Leisure Sales Manager, is attending the Southeast Tourism Society, Marketing College to further her education in destination marketing.  This three-year, week long course introduces Sarah to a curriculum of courses designed to teach marketing techniques from all facets of the tourism industry.  Upon completion of the three-year Marketing College curriculum, she will receive a Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) certification.

In January, the Visitors Bureau began the second year of the JoCo Hospitality Association, a membership based tourism industry advisory committee to the authority.  Invitations were sent to area businesses to become members, cost is $50 for the organization.  The group meets four times a year on the fourth Tuesday at 2pm in January, April, July and October.  Guest speakers and workshops are held for education and networking for the group to foster better relationships in the tourism community in Johnston County.

Also in January, the Johnston County Sports Council members attended the County Commissioner's Jan. 4th meeting to continue the discussion on the recommendations from the County-wide Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Since the completion of the plan in April, the Visitors Bureau staff continues to work on low-impact recreation projects like Bike Route Signage and Boat Ramps on the Neuse River.  Larger projects like the completion of the Mountains to the Sea Trail are topics the Sports Council wants to address with the commissioners, and having a dedicated staff person to pursue the plan's recommendations.

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.  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.  To learn more about the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, please contact Donna Bailey-Taylor, President/CEO at 919-989-8687 or visit the website, www.johnstoncountync.org/working-with-the-jcvb

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Johnston County Visitors Bureau Wins Awards at Tourism Leadership Conference

Johnston County Visitors Bureau Wins Awards at Tourism Leadership Conference

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau was recently honored with 2 awards, presented at the recent annual North Carolina Tourism Leadership Conference, held each year by the Destination Marketing Association of North Carolina. The JCVB won a Gold Destination Marketing Achievement Award in Advertising for their Girlfriends Getaway Print Advertising Campaign. In addition, they also won a Gold Destination Marketing Achievement Award in Online Communications for the Bureau's weekly blog.

Outlet shopping is by far the largest attraction for Smithfield/Johnston County with more than 7 million shopper choosing to visit, shop, spend the night, and it continues to be the driving force for economic development for the tourism industry in Smithfield.  The Girlfriends Getaway advertisingDMANC Awards 2015 promotes the packaging of this attraction with others in the Smithfield area to encourage female shoppers to turn a shopping trip into an experience. Hotels that up-sale the package are averaging 10 per weekend, and others are averaging 2-3 per weekend.  Room nights generated in the last 12 months estimated at approximately 748 with eight hotel partners.

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau's weekly blog posts present a unique medium for announcing important tourism-related events and news, as well as serving as a platform to tell the stories of Johnston County's people and places. The top blog posts of the year included the opening of Johnston County's first legal moonshine distillery, the opening of two new chef driven and farm-fresh restaurants, the announcement that a major county event would be growing, and the story of a local girl working to make it big with her music. In total, these four top-producing posts generated 18,787 views to the blog page on our website so far.

Donna Bailey-Taylor, President/CEO of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, was also honored by the North Carolina Travel Industry Association (NCTIA) with the organization’s 2015 Public Service Award. NCTIA’ s Public Service Award is given to individuals and/or organizations for outstanding career contributions for the betterment, welfare, progress, recognition, promotion and development of the travel industry of North Carolina.  Previously known as the Bill Sharpe Award, the Public Service Award is awarded annually (since 1987) in honor of Bill Sharpe, the state’s first tourism director.

For more information on the N.C. Travel Industry Association and the Public Service Award, visit

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New Staff Members at the Bureau

With every season there comes change, and so it is at the Johnston County Visitors Bureau.  We said goodbye to two staff members recently as their career paths took them on to new adventures.  We wish them much success!

After the months of posting job openings, interviews, and second interviews, the JCVB has hired two outstanding individuals to join our team.  Here's just a snapshot of our new employees and we encourage our tourism industry community to get to know them as they both have critical roles in the marketing efforts for Johnston County. 

Ashby BrameAshby Brame is a Johnston County native, who like many, have gone off to college, worked a few years elsewhere and decided that there is no place better than home.  Ashby's title is Marketing/PR Manager and she will handle all aspects of advertising placement, development of marketing strategies, BLOG writing, and social media campaigns.  Ashby has a Masters of Business Administration, Marketing from East Carolina University, and BS in Management, Marketing from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.  She has worked for The Biltmore Estate for Group Sales, and most recently as the Sales and Marketing Manager for Ruth's Chris Steak House in Asheville.




Sarah CampbellSarah Campbell, also is well-known in the Smithfield community, and has worked for one of our past board members, Hank Daniels, owner of Sleep Inn and Super 8 for more than four years in all areas of the hotel.  She also has experience working retail at Carolina Premium Outlets and as a lifeguard at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center. She has a BS in Nursing from the University of NC at Wilmington, however, she has found her passion in the hospitality industry in particular with promoting the county to visitors.  Sarah's title is Sports and Leisure Sales Manager, and she will work on attracting groups to the county, and promotion and development of leisure packages for shopping, trails, and golfing.  In addition to sales, she will maintain the bureau's database and provide services to groups coming to the county.




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Meet the new Johnston County Tourism Authority Board Members

Meet the new Johnston County Tourism Authority Board Members

In October, the Johnston County Commissioners appointed four members to the Johnston County Tourism Authority, two returning and two new members. The same month, the Four Oaks Chamber of Commerce announced one additional board member, making a total of five members appointed.

Jim Godfrey, President of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce was reappointed to a second three year term. Godfrey serves as chairman of the Johnston County Sports Council. Karen Henthorn, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Carolina Premium Outlets, was reappointed to a second three-year term, and she serves on the Johnston County Visitors Bureau Marketing Committee.

New members are Warren Stancil, owner of Interstate Outdoor, Inc., Rosa Andrews, Director of Economic Development at Johnston Community College, and Stacy Lee with the Town of Four Oaks Parks and Recreation Department. Stancil and Lee will serve on the Special Projects Committee and Andrews will serve on the new JoCo Hospitality Association. The Johnston County Tourism Authority is the governing board for the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, providing oversight for the room tax funds collected from area hotels. The board is charged with promoting the county's tourism assets, granting funds for special events, and capital funding for tourism development projects.

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina recently announced that domestic visitors traveling more than 50 miles to Johnston County spent $204.51 in 2013, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2012 figures.  Other signs the tourism industry is healthy in Johnston County include new hotel development, investment in new tourism attractions and openings of service industry businesses like restaurants, retail, and transportation.

In other news, the Tourism Authority Board elected  Keith Brinson, Johnston County Farm Bureau, to serve as Vice-Chairman and Lynn Daniels, Super 8 of Smithfield, to serve as Secretary. Ernie Brame, Kenly 95 Petro Truckstop, is the current Chairman of the authority and other members of the board include, Scotty Henley with The Clayton Center, Joseph Stallings from the Town of Benson, and Chad McLamb, Ex-officio County Finance Officer.

More information on the programs, budget, and activities of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau may be found on the website, johnstoncountync.org/jc-tourism-authority or by calling 919-989-8687. 


Photo Caption:  Members of the Johnston County Tourism Authority and Executive Director, Donna Bailey-Taylor. Pictured seated row left to right:  Donna Bailey-Taylor, Rosa Andrews, Ernie Brame, Lynn Daniels, Karen Henthorn; Standing row left to right: Jim Godfrey, Warren Stancil, Stacy Lee, Keith Brinson, Scotty Henley and Joe Stallings.

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JoCo Visitors Bureau Wins Four Destination Marketing Awards

Each year in the fall, the Destination Marketing Association of NC, the state's trade association for Convention & Visitor Bureaus, hosts an education conference and awards competition.  Statewide visitor bureaus submit works in marketing , printing, web based promotions, and tourism initiatives for their prospective communities and based on budget size they are judged by industry professionals.

This year's conference held in Winston-Salem concluded this week, and the Johnston County Visitors Bureau received four Destination Marketing Awards in the small bureau category. 

"To be recognized by our peers in the state is certainly an honor, and a confirmation for our staff's hard work promoting Johnston County, " stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director.  The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is comprised of a staff of five and all marketing campaigns, design, websites, and special projects are handled in-house by the staff.

Awards won by the JCVB were;  Gold - 301 Endless Yard Sale, Gold - Johnston County Visitors Guide, Platinum - Beer, Wine, Shine Trail brochure, Platinum - Our State Magazine Campaign.

Destination Marketing Initiative – Web based, 301 Endless Yard Sale.

The 2nd Annual 301 Endless Yard Sale was twice as successful in 2014, as it expanded to 100-miles and four counties.  This campaign was national in scope and included publicity, website adword campaigns, social, radio, and print advertising.  The event FB page grew from 350 likes to over 5,000 during the promotional time frame of Jan-June.

The event was expanded this year to a 100-mile yard sale and brought in the CVBs from Halifax, Wilson, and Harnett counties as partners. The organizing committee coordinated the marketing through the JCVB and town officials handled issues like signage, parking, permits, and food vendors.  This year's event had over 500 vendors and more than 5,000 shoppers for the two day sale.  Vendors reported high sales, hotels reported overnight stays, and restaurants were very pleased with sales. The Bureau created a website, www.301endlessyardsale.com to be the centerpiece of event marketing; Google Analytics from May-June were 24,155 unique visitors and 90,476 page views. 

This year's event included a vendor survey with key results and points  noted by the committee were:  35% of  vendors heard about the event from WRAL,  followed by 30% website, 30% Facebook;  76% of vendors sold on both days with average sales of $500 each day; 81% of vendors found their spot because they knew the property owner;  79% of vendors sold yard sale items, 48% collectibles and 38% antiques; 83% of vendors plan to come back next year. 

Destination Publications – Johnston County Visitors Guide

The Johnston County Visitors Guide remains the primary marketing piece for the destination, and the bureau continues to print and distribute 90,000 guides each year. 

This year's visitors guide was redesigned to be more of a magazine format, and to cut back on alphabetical phonebook-style listings.  Our goal was to tell more stories and share experiences with visitors in the beginning of each section of the guide.  In addition, unique landing pages were developed to drive visitors to our websites pertaining to their special interests.  The visitors guide is a non-advertising piece that promotes hotels, dining, attractions, outlet shopping, antique shops, specialty retail, festivals/events, meeting venues, sports facilities and transportation services.  The main message or purpose of this brochure is to drive visitors to tourism-related businesses, therefore increasing visitor spending in the community.

The guide is the fulfillment piece for the bureau’s adverting efforts and is distributed in all NC Welcome Centers, visitor centers and local industry to use while assisting visitors.  The piece is highly used by local front desk staff as the most valuable piece the bureau produces.  The bureau has now hired a part-time staff person to distribute the guide to over 125 racks around the county to get brochures to all hotels, attractions, key restaurants, and high traffic locations.

Niche Marketing Piece – Beer, Wine, Shine Trail Brochure.

Three years ago, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau developed the Muscadine Heritage Wine Trail, and since then over 1,000 people have completed the trail.  Now with two breweries, and a distillery in the county, we have re-concepted the trail and re-branded the trail to include these new partners.

(25,000) Beer, Wine and Shine Trail Brochures were printed   Trail brochures were distributed to NC Welcome Centers, area Visitor Centers, hotels, attractions, and other high traffic areas in the county.  PDF versions were placed on websites as well, with a new www.beerwineshinetrail.com website launched to support the trail

Cost of the trail brochure, $4,500, was completely covered by the six partners and the response from new breweries has been very positive to date as a way for their business to stand out and cross promote with the wineries in the county.  The website has an incentive to join our email marketing list, with a monthly drawing for a mason jar mug with a trail graphic logo.

Destination Print Advertising – Leisure, Our State Magazine Campaign.

This campaign was targeted to individual leisure visitors in the North Carolina market with an added twist for readers to receive a free gift offer.  Our State Magazine does not offer reader cards, so our campaign was designed to measure response to the ad in addition to phone inquiries.

This print advertising campaign was themed based on the top travel generators for Johnston County -- Fall festivals, Holiday Shopping, History/Civil War events, and Spring Festivals.  Each ad campaign had a unique landing page on our www.johnstoncountync.org website, so performance could be tracked, as well as, the request for FREE gift.

The tracking methodology was especially telling as to what Our State Readers responded to the most.  This type of data on visitor interest is tremendously helpful in planning ad campaigns in the future to deliver content of interest to Our State readers.  The response for the FREE gift was consistent throughout the campaign generating approximately 100 requests each.

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is funded by the county-wide 3% room tax paid by visitors to the county.  For more information on the bureau's activities visit the website, www.johnstoncountync.org or call 919-989-8687.


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Johnston County heads to New York!

New York Media Mission Public LibraryWelcome to New York...the city that never sleeps! The Big Apple! The media capital of the world! Okay...I know that last one doesn't sound as exciting, but when part of your job is to get people visiting and writing about your county then this is a big deal.

For the second year I got the opportunity to head to New York City to participate in the New York Media Mission. The North Carolina Division of Tourism puts this event together for destinations and visitor bureaus across the state to pitch their specific attractions to a variety of New York media outlets. This includes big names like The New York Times, Rachel Ray Show, CBS News, etc., but it also includes freelance writers and bloggers.

The event took place in a gorgeous room at the New York Public Library, where people from all over North Carolina came to promote their destination. There were also restaurants and North Carolina-based food and drinks being served. The atmosphere was very laid back and welcoming for all the New Yorkers coming to see what North Carolina had to offer.

This particular media mission always makes me a little nervous. I'm never sure how much interest Big City people have in small, rural towns-- although they do love the accent. This year I was pleasantly surprised. I talked to many people about how we have embraced the agritourism concept, and the transition of farms into attractions. Many of them were also interested in our new breweries and distillery (Deep River Brewing, Double Barley, and Broadslab Distillery) that use locally grown products to create their drinks. They wanted to hear more on our food, our festivals, and our Hollywood starlet, Ava Gardner. Throughout the event there were many questions asked about our wonderful county and I left satisfied with how it went (I even got some of them saying "y'all").

Set up for New York Media MissionWhile I was up there I did some sight-seeing, but it was extremely cold. Since I didn't have much time, I bundled up (fleece leggings became my best friend) and toured the city. A high of 17 degrees meant I was visiting places that involved hot drinks. I was there the week before the Super Bowl so the excitement was building and fans of the Broncos and Seahawks were starting to arrive. I had never been to New York City while it was snowing, so I had to visit Central Park with inches of snow. It really is a spectacular city.

With the threat of bad weather back here, I had a second of worry that my flight was going to be cancelled, but I was lucky enough to have North Carolina welcome me home with more snow and temperatures just as cold as New York!

I had so much fun in the little bit of time I spent in New York City. From the people I met (both New Yorkers and fellow North Carolinians) to braving the cold, this event makes me appreciate Johnston County even more. We know how much our small towns have to offer and I am lucky enough to spread that nationwide.

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2014 Visitors Guide Published

2014 Visitors Guide has New Format 2014 Visitors Guide has New Format

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau (JCVB) is pleased to announce the arrival of the 2014 Official Johnston County Visitors Guide.  This year’s guide has a new concept as a “destination” planner giving visitors additional tools to plan a visit with suggested itineraries, feature stories on area businesses, and travel deals.  The guide features several themed sections with editorial copy introducing visitors to the destination, with a center map of Carolina Premium Outlets, which by far is the largest attraction in the county.

The upcoming 150th Battle of Bentonville Reenactment is the featured event on the cover of the new visitors guide, which will take place March 21-22, 2015.  That may seem far away, but this guide will be on the shelf for the next twelve months and will be used in many upcoming advertising campaigns to promote the event.

JCVB prints 90,000 Visitors Guide each year to promote the county and the guide is entirely sponsored by the 3% county-wide occupancy tax, which is paid by visitors to the county.  Guides are distributed to all NC Welcome Centers in the state, RDU International Airport, AAA Offices along the eastern seaboard and along I-40 west.  Guides are in visitor centers across North Carolina, as well as, around the county in more than 100 locations such as hotels, attractions, Chambers of Commerce, town halls and retail stores.

If you are planning a trip through North Carolina along I-95 or I-40...or you are looking for a short weekend get-a-way for golfing or shopping, call us for a new Visitors Guide at 1-800-441-7829!

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Hospitality Training Program, “Hospitality Heroes” Updated

Sign up for the FREE Hospitality Heroes Program offer at Johnston Community College -- become a tourism ambassador! Sign up for the FREE Hospitality Heroes Program offered at Johnston Community College!

Since 2010, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau (JCVB) has partnered with Johnston Community College’s Small Business Center to offer the hospitality training course known as “Hospitality Heroes”.  This training course is offered online monthly and is FREE to new and existing tourism industry employees in the county.  Over the past three years, the program has had over 100 graduates.

“Having an easily accessible educational program for our visitor industry partners was a long-term goal of the bureau’s and with the help of Johnston Community College we are providing that service,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director. “Knowing your product is the first step in sales and Johnston County is our tourism product; we consider every front line employee an ambassador for tourism.”

Over the summer break, Hospitality Heroes was updated to include information which will help students answer visitor questions when approached on the job.  Information important to know includes Johnston County’s new attractions, hotel openings, restaurants, and the many shopping and outlet opportunities available for visitors to enjoy.  Just having the basic information and knowing the Visitors Bureau provides marketing materials like the Visitors Guide, Visitor Maps, Event Calendars and Websites will help front-line employees find the resources they need to help visitors.

Facts and figures about national, state and local visitor spending, visitor demographic profiles and many additional resources have been updated.  The new Hospitality Heroes program features JCVB’s five new promotional YouTube videos based on the following themes: Agritourism, Arts & Entertainment, History & Heritage, Shopping New & Old, and Outdoor Recreation.  The new program also highlights the results of the Visitor Profile Study conducted by East Carolina University’s Center for Sustainable Tourism in 2013.

With course completion, each graduate will receive a Hospitality Heroes certificate, a gift bag from JCVB, and vouchers to local attractions within the county that they can visit complimentary.  Knowing more about the destination will help front line employees direct visitors, answer questions and help give them a better impression of our communities.

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Erin Bailey Joins the Johnston County Visitors Bureau Staff

Erin BaileyThe Johnston County Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce its recent hire of Erin Bailey, who has joined the Visitors Bureau staff as a Communications Assistant. Within this role, Bailey will assist with advertising and publicity of the county, as well as, work on website and email marketing for the Visitors Bureau.

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce its recent hire of Erin Bailey, who has joined the Visitors Bureau staff as a Communications Assistant. Within this role, Bailey will assist with advertising and publicity of the county, as well as, work on website and email marketing for the Visitors Bureau.

"I am excited about the opportunity to work for the Visitors Bureau. I look forward to meeting and working with the visitor industry to help promote Johnston County and all it has to offer," stated Bailey.

Bailey, an Appalachian State University graduate, grew up in Clayton and is familiar with the attractions in Johnston County. Bailey earned a degree in Public Relations and has a background in web design.

“We are so pleased to welcome Erin to the Visitors Bureau and finding a native of Johnston County with PR and website experience is certainly a plus for our staff,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, Executive Director, “having both skill sets will make for a smooth transition into her position.”

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing organization for the entire county.  The bureau’s mission is to attract and serve visitors to the county, therefore, increasing visitor spending for area tourism-related businesses. For more information, contact Donna Bailey-Taylor at 919-989-8687, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit the Johnston County Visitors Bureau website at www.johnstoncountync.org

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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

beer wine and shine trail logo

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.


Meeting Planners

meeting venue with presentation screen

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?


Group Tour Operators

girl with camera in travel group

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.


Hotel Packages

hotel bed and pillow with johnston county logo

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.


hospitality heroes logo



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