A group of individuals dedicated to attracting visitors to Sampson County are seeking the community’s involvement in formulating a plan that will optimize tourism while making Sampson a “better place to live, work and visit.”
Four input sessions will be held in early September as part of that Strategic Tourism Plan Initiative process being spearheaded by the Sampson County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), the county’s official destination marketing organization whose mission it is to market and promote the county, its assets and its industry partners to attract business and leisure travelers.
CVB officials have already started working on the strategic plan, intended to guide Sampson County’s future tourism marketing and product development efforts. The initiative was approved earlier this year by the 14-member CVB’s Board of Directors, with funding for the project provided through the group’s annual operating budget, funded by a 3 percent occupancy tax paid by guests staying at lodging properties located in the county.
“We are excited to begin this effort, which will result in an actionable plan we can use to drive growth in visitation to Sampson County and visitor spending in our communities for many years to come,” said Sheila Barefoot, executive director for the Sampson CVB. “This will be a plan which will positively impact both residents and businesses, and make Sampson County a better place to live, work and visit.”
In 2014, visitors to Sampson County spent more than $47 million in the destination, according to The Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties, a study prepared for Visit North Carolina by the U.S. Travel Association.
The CVB has contracted with consulting firm Magellan Strategy Group of Asheville to facilitate the planning process. Founded in 2004, Magellan has worked with numerous organizations across North Carolina and the eastern United States on similar strategic tourism projects.
The Magellan team for Sampson County is led by Chris Cavanaugh, the firm’s founder, and Dr. Carol Kline, associate professor at the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University. CVB officials said Cavanaugh and Kline have already spent time touring the county and will be back in the area several more times in the coming weeks as part of the overall process, which is expected to be completed by late fall.
“We believe this project represents the Board of Directors’ strong commitment to the growth of Sampson County’s visitor economy,” said Ray Jordan, the board’s current chair and the executive director of the Sampson County Agri-Expo Center. “Travel and tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in both the U.S. and North Carolina, and we want to enhance Sampson County’s competitiveness in the marketplace.”
As a part of the strategic planning process, the CVB and Magellan Strategy Group will hold the four September sessions for stakeholders to provide input for the plan. Participants at the sessions will be encouraged to share feedback about tourism in the county and opportunities for growth.
The sessions are set for Thursday, Sept. 8, at 9:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. as well as on Friday, Sept. 9, at 9 a.m. Each session will be held at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center and will last no more than 90 minutes.
Those interested in attending any of the sessions must register in advance by emailing Sheila Barefoot at [email protected] or calling 910-592-2557. Residents will also be able to provide their feedback via an online survey to be made available on the CVB’s website, at visitsampsonnc.com, following the input sessions.
“The county has many destination assets, both natural and manmade, and this plan will help us prioritize our use of resources,” Jordan stated.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.