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By next fall, the county's tourism promoting agency will have a detailed report on who comes to Henderson County and why, how much they spend and what they do while they're here.
David Nicholson, the former county manager who chairs the Tourism Development Authority, gave the Board of Commissioners an update Wednesday on the TDA's efforts to promote and build on a part of the local economy worth $209 million. Henderson County ranks 17th in the state in tourism dollars, and the industry here accounts for 2,000 jobs, a payroll of $36 million and $19 million in government revenue, Nicholson said. The TDA hired Young Strategies, a Charlotte-based tourism marketing research firm, to undertake a comprehensive study that will help guide tourism promotion efforts.
"This fall, some time probably November, we'll be in a position to have a public meeting on the results of this survey," he said. "We want people to understand what our tourists are saying about our community."
Young Strategies is owned by Berkeley Young, who grew up in Spartanburg but spent summers visiting his grandparents in Hendersonville.
Nicholson also reported on the TDA's partnership with Flat Rock Playhouse. The agency bought $25,000 worth of play tickets that hotels, motels and inns as an incentives for visitors to stay longer.
"If they stay two nights they get two free tickets to the Flat Rock Playhouse," he said. "Highland Lake Inn added breakfasts and dinners to their package."
Nicholson said the TDA is also encouraging innovation and new ideas by the accommodations industry and other attractions.
"We're trying to build that kind of idea, working together, partnering together. It can't always be us," he said. "We want them to be active in putting programs together and putting ideas together."
A new stage in the lot south of the Visitors Center is scheduled to start soon and may be ready by Garden Jubilee, a TDA-sponsored event on Memorial Day weekend.
"We're working on how we could partner from a regional and statewide effort with other groups and other organizations," he said. "Some people said the other day, what about the Biltmore estate?"
Nicholson showed the commissioners an Atlanta Braves program with a Henderson County ad and held up another ad from Southern Living magazine.