How does the Johnston County Visitors Bureau impact the community and what exactly does the bureau do?
The tourism industry in Johnston County is big business with over $196 million spent by visitors to the county in 2012. Travel and tourism in Johnston County contributed over $15 million in state and local taxes and without this revenue, each household in Johnston County would pay $248 more in taxes to provide services and build schools.
What does the Visitors Bureau do each year to promote the county and attract visitors to spend their travel dollars in the county?
As an interstate destination strategically located on I-95 and I-40, our market is primarily leisure travelers. The Visitors Bureau has several advertising campaigns to reach the leisure traveler such as:
- Interstate Advertising: Billboards are positioned from Halifax County southbound and northbound Dunn as visitors reach Johnston County. The billboard campaign is targeted to get visitors to stop and explore the various attractions along the way, and NOT just that we have 2000 hotels rooms and 350 restaurants.
- Discount Coupon Offers: The Visitors Bureau partners with two lodging coupon books to promote hotels from Kenly to Smithfield and on I-40 at Exit 312. This program has been very well received and can be tracked by our hotel partners.
- Print Advertising: The Visitors Bureau keeps print advertising focused only on travel publications that reach the target feeder states along the eastern seaboard such as AAA publications, Our State Magazine and Southern Living.
- Online Marketing: The Visitors Bureau maintains a comprehensive database of visitor industry businesses on the official travel resource web site for the county, and several on-line marketing programs are in place to drive visitors to the website. Adwords with Google and banner advertising with the NC Division of Tourism, Film & Sports Development are two key examples.
- Tradeshows & Direct Marketing: Each year the Visitors Bureau participates in several sales missions, tradeshows and direct mail campaigns to AAA Offices, Welcome Centers and Group Tour Operators to sell the destination.
- The Visitors Bureau produces several high quality print fulfillment pieces for visitor promotion each year, they include: Visitors Guide, Smithfield/Selma Map, Meeting Planners Guide, Wedding Guide, Sports Guide
- The Official Visitors Guide for Johnston County is printed every 12 months with a quantity of 90,000 distributed to Welcome Centers, Visitor Centers, RDU Airport, area hotels, attractions, retail stores, restaurants and other points of interest in the county.
- The Calendar of Event is now electronic and emailed out to a subscriber’s list each month.
- The Johnston County Golf Guide is printed as needed in quantities of 50,000 to be distributed to all visitor outlets.
- The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is responsible for advertising the Towns of Kenly, Selma, Smithfield and Benson and the bureau designs, prints and distributes several special event postcards and brochures for each town’s events as well as produces Visitor Maps for each town.
The Visitors Bureau provides meeting planning and group tour planning assistance for small meetings and motor coach groups traveling to Johnston County. Services offered for these markets include:
- Assist planners and group tour operators in all areas of preparation with detailed reference materials such as a Meeting Planners Guide and Group Tour Guide.
- Provide special itinerary planning for groups or for spouse tours.
- Help with matching hotel properties to specific meeting or group requirements and budgets.
- Send out leads and/or help establish room blocks at local hotels.
- Help with securing special venues for events.
- Assist with coordination of local ground transportation.
- Act as a liaison between the planner and community officials, thus clearing the way for special needs, street closures, etc.
- Provide registration assistance and/or welcome bags for groups and sports tournaments.
The Visitors Bureau gives back to the community with two grant programs to support Special Events and Festivals and to foster tourism development projects. The bureau has done this for over 20 years and has given well over $1 million in tourism tax revenues to foster development.
Special Events & Festival Grants:
Each year the Johnston County Visitors Bureau awards approximately $15,000 to area events and festivals to assist the organizers with marketing expenses for their event. Many annual festivals have been receiving assistance for over 15 years, and include Benson Mule Days, Smithfield Ham & Yam Festival, Clayton Harvest Festival, Tobacco Farm Life Anniversary Event and many more.
Capital Grants for Tourism Development:
Since its inception in 1987, the Johnston County Tourism Authority has supported financially the development of tourism projects in the county. The Tourism Authority remains committed to giving back to the community and the bureau staff is actively involved in many tourism development initiatives raising funds from foundations and other state grant opportunities.