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Tourism plays vital role in local economy

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Monday, August 17, 2015

For any area looking to grow its economy, making sure travelers have a pleasant experience is vital.

Visit North Carolina recently announced that visitors to and within Nash County spent $265.32 million in 2014, an increase of 2.95 percent from 2013. Edgecombe County experienced a 3.62 percent increase from $53.58 million in 2013 to $55.53 million in 2014.

Alex Boncek, director of Nash County Travel and Tourism, said tourism is an important component to the health of the local economy.

“We have a very diverse market from sporting events, to reunions, weddings and even tour groups coming in from out of state. We’ve demonstrated steady growth over the last several years and I am pleased that we have continued that trend through 2014.”

Hotel revenues were also up 7.5 percent and generated more than $1.9 million in fiscal year 2014-15 than fiscal year 2013-14. Travelers coming down Interstate 95 or U.S. 64 into Rocky Mount may have found a more accommodating hotel experience at the Courtyard Marriott. Louisville, Ky.,-based Schulte Hospitality Group that purchased both Rocky Mount’s Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott in September 2014 renovated and upgraded 90 guest rooms and suites at the Courtyard by Marriott in July. The Courtyard by Marriott is scheduled to host a re-grand opening party for guest and visitors from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday.

Samantha Myszelow, director of sales at Courtyard by Marriott, said the rooms went through a complete renovation, including a feature that allows travelers to plug in all of their personal devices in a charging port within the hotel night stand instead of regular wall plug-ins. Myszelow said the Marriott brand has often attracted business travelers and the rooms have light desks on wheels for the flexibility of working anywhere in the room along with the complimentary Wi-Fi service.

Myszelow said work will begin at the end of November on renovations to the entire Residence Inn property with completion expected by March.

“Schulte Hospitality Group is in the business of buying older hotels and renovating them back to what they should be or what our guests should be staying in,” she said. “Rocky Mount is the midpoint between New York and Florida, and having a newer product in the market or a fresh look as far as upgrade in technology, we think will do well.”

Myszelow said the Rocky Mount Sports Complex has been a huge weekend driver for Marriott hotels and others around Gateway Boulevard. Despite the controversy it has generated, Myszelow supports the proposed downtown community facility that was approved by the Rocky Mount City Council in July, sometimes called the event center. Similar to the sports complex, the concentration of the proposed facility is centered on sports tourism.

Myszelow said weekend soccer and baseball tournaments at the sports complex have people coming from Virginia and as far up north as New Jersey and New York.

“That sports complex brings so much revenue to this area and it brings jobs,” she said. “The downtown event center is going to offer two sports that the sports complex don’t offer.

“The volleyball and basketball traveling teams are just as intense as baseball and soccer. To bring those people here to Rocky Mount to spend their money on the weekend is a huge plus for this area. Those people coming have to buy groceries, eat food and get gas, so they’re pouring money into the local market. The sports complex has been successful and I believe the same will hold true for the downtown event center.”

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