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2011 should be good for tourism if E-word behaves

Just yesterday I read a public relations column that referred to the clichés most disliked by editors.

One very recent one has been any reference to the economic downturn, such as “In these tough economic times …” or more recently, “As the economy begins to show signs of life …”

My goal with this column is to steer clear of using the word “economy” or any iteration thereof more than once or twice. We’ll see how I do.

Last month we learned that visitor spending in North Carolina for 2010 totaled approximately $17 billion, an increase from the year prior.

Our Charlotte/Douglas International Airport is now the seventh-busiest airport in the world. And we will continue to receive staunch support and exposure for landing the Democratic National Convention among many other important wins.

For that matter, after pursuing the Veterans of Foreign Wars annual convention for more than 10 years, they have now placed their faith in Charlotte by committing their event here in 2016. Hotel occupancy rates continue to climb, and we hope that improvement continues.

Each spring we are also reminded of the good fortune in all the events we welcome each year and how they seem to gain momentum and a following of even more fans.

Just over a year ago we celebrated the opening of the Levine Center of the Arts — formerly Wells Fargo Cultural Campus — and were looking forward with great anticipation to the grand opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (I’ve included some interesting facts at the end of the column that may surprise you.)

We welcomed the largest convention in our history, the National Rifle Association, which brought 72,000-plus visitors along for the experience.

We engrossed ourselves in the CIAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament. This past March, the tournament brought in more than $29 million in direct spending for the Charlotte area and $44.3 million in overall economic impact.

We cheered on the ACC football championship and the NCAA regionals. And we welcomed the announcement — with great pride — that one of the most talked-about conventions in the world chose Charlotte: the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Now how do we catapult these opportunities into new wins? By continuing to be good stewards of these beautiful, successful amenities and events, by bringing forward our Southern hospitality every chance we get and offering the highest value-added packages to prospective clients.

Our newest hotel in Center City, Hotel Sierra, is a shining example of the strides Charlotte has made. We already have seen announcements stem from the DNC, including the completion of the previously planned Park Condo project now slated to become a Hyatt Place Hotel just two blocks from Time Warner Cable Arena and within walking distance of the Convention Center, NASCAR Hall of Fame and much more.

So are we thankful for the city and region we have become and looking forward to the year ahead? Absolutely.

As my 8-year-old son says almost every day: It should be awesome. So if that E- word can trend upward and keep the pain at the pump to a minimum, we should have an awesome, terrific year.

And as always, if you need to know what visitors find fun and interesting in Charlotte, be a visitor in your own backyard and see what Charlotte has to offer at charlottesgotalot.com.

NASCAR Hall of Fame facts:

The city invested in this building to drive tourism and new business. The hall is easily achieving that objective:

  • $224 million has been realized in direct spending from 72 out-of-town groups/meetings using the hall and Crown Ballroom. A total of 203,000 delegates traveling to Charlotte (does not include recently announced 2012 DNC).
  • On the leisure front, 67 percent of hall visitors spend the night in Charlotte. They spend an average of $191 per person/per day in the area. That is double the amount the city is used to seeing from leisure travelers.
  • 83 percent of visitors are from more than 50 miles away and of those 50 percent say the hall is the primary reason for visiting.
  • We have had visitors from all 50 states and several countries. We have members from 44 states and five different countries.
  • The NHOF was the second-highest attended sports hall of fame in the country in 2010.
  • More than 200,000 visitors came through the hall in 2010 (partial year). In comparison, the Baseball Hall of Fame saw 289,818 in 2009 (full year) and the Football Hall of Fame projected 196,205 in 2009 (full year).

Molly Hedrick is senior director of communications for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

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