Many threats to tourism

Aug. 23, 2014 @ 11:50 PM

This editorial appeared in the StarNews, Wilmington 

Tourism in North Carolina is a $20 billion-a-year industry, and that's only counting what visitors -- traveling for recreation or on business -- actually spend here. That total does not take into account the total impact as employees and businesses that make a living in tourism pump the money back into the economy.

The $20 billion spent by visitors in 2013 was a record, and more than $1 billion of that total was spent in the Cape Fear region. If there were any doubt about the importance of tourism to this region - and the importance of policies that keep people wanting to come here - that figure should dispel it.

As important as the tourism is, we know that we cannot depend on it and other low-wage service-sector industries for our state's economic future.

It's a delicate balance, and many other industries also contribute to the state's appeal to tourists. Among those is the film industry, which is in danger should lawmakers hold fast to a drastic and detrimental change to the film incentives program.

In addition to creating more than 1,000 permanent jobs in the Cape Fear region alone, incentives that lure filmmakers to the state also bring actors and other crew members -- visitors who stay and spend money here -- as well as fans who come to Wilmington in hopes of spotting stars or visiting the locations of favorite movies and television shows.

Likewise, historic preservation tax credits that are on their last legs have spurred revitalization in some communities and have encouraged property owners to save and restore older buildings. Gov. Pat McCrory had proposed changes to the program that would put the focus on historic property with the potential to generate revenue and, in turn, to fuel other investment.

Again, neither incentive program directly affects tourists' decision to vacation in North Carolina.

But they are examples that many seemingly unrelated factors contribute to our state's healthy tourism economy.