County TDA starting visitor study

Apr. 23, 2013 @ 06:11 AM

Why do tourists visit Rutherford County?

With hopes of understanding why, the Tourism Development Association (TDA) has started the groundwork on a visitor information study.

In partnership with the East Carolina University Center for Sustainable Tourism and the Blue Ridge National Heritage area, TDA is hoping to collect data on visitor activities and perceptions about sustainable travel.

"We're really thrilled about it because it is academic in nature and it will contain some very valid numbers," said Michelle Whitaker, TDA executive director. "The point is to get the most accurate information on who our visitors are and what they are looking for."

The study is expected to cost an estimated $6,000.

TDA performed a similar study in 2007 and Whitaker said there is not an expectation of many changes in what tourists do in the county and what they think about those activities.

"While we don't anticipate that there has been a dramatic shift, we just want to make sure we are updated in what we are doing," Whitaker said.

The study will also help TDA know how to better serve those tourists.

Additionally, the study can provide information on what areas TDA can target for potential visitors.

Whitaker said that TDA is in the midst of scheduling time to have representatives from East Carolina to come to the county for preliminary work. Once the survey is prepared, they will be distributed at various areas of the county. Whitaker said that the survey will be placed at "venues with high visitor traffic."

"We're trying to get a good mix because we have different demographics," Whitaker said. "We are trying to get a broad spectrum across the county and across the type of visitor that will be coming."

The study is expected to be complete by December. However, Whitaker said that East Carolina will provide monthly updates on the progress of the study and any information gleaned from it.

"We will do several things," Whitaker said. "We'll make a public announcement this fall but, most importantly, we will use it to target our efforts in marketing."