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The Brunswick County Tourism Development Authority has approved an additional $30,000 to develop a database management system and a job description for a new database manager to improve the TDA’s communication with potential visitors.
Last week, the board approved resolutions for the $30,000 and the job description and talked about the public’s increased use of the Internet and how it has affected Brunswick County tourism.
The new database system will allow the new employee, who is to be hired this summer, to gather information on Web site visitors’ areas of interest, noting what pages they spend the most time on, and send them information on the types of events they are most interested in.
Next fiscal year, this process will replace the current system through which Brunswick Electric Membership Corp. is paid $80,000 each year to answer telephones and mail out information to people seeking information about vacations on the Brunswick islands.
Authority members agreed the Internet has given customers a much greater freedom to pick and choose their vacations and that the tourism industry must try whatever it can to meet their demands.
“People are going on the Internet constantly and looking for a deal. Consumers are pushing the market,” said Randy Jones, Southport’s tourism director.
“The public is much more savvy and educated than they used to be,” agreed Debbie Smith, mayor of Ocean Isle Beach and owner of Sloane Realty.
Smith said the new database system will “give us a heads up and let us be at the forefront” of attracting tourists to the editor.
According to TDA Executive Director Mitzi York, the new database coordinator will work 37.5 hours each week and make between $13 and $14 per hour.
The person’s job will involve answering phone calls from the public, collecting appropriate mailing and demographic information and answering questions; processing e-mail inquiries from the public; entering data into the database and processing mailings; generating database and Web site reports; distributing leads to tourism partners; gathering information from partners to update the TDA and state Web sites and publications; maintaining the Web site data; composing letters and forms to respond to the public and tourism partners and to collect data; assist executive director in the collection of data for research projects; maintaining records and operating office equipment.
In other business, the authority approved a resolution supporting an additional $5 million in the state Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development budget for fiscal year 2008-2009. The current year’s budget is $15 million.
The resolution emphasizes the fact North Carolina “consistently ranks” among the top 10 states in visitation while its marketing budget ranks only 21st and eighth among its southern competitors.
The resolution singles out South Carolina as a main competitor.
“South Carolina has increased its budget to approximately $46 million for 2008-09 and will be investing in domestic marketing and advertising at a more than 3:1 advantage over North Carolina.”
According to a study cited in the resolution, North Carolina receives $185 in new visitor spending and more than $15 in state and local tax revenues for every dollar invested in paid advertising, a return on investment of more than 15:1.
Based on those findings and on a 2007 study of the economic impact of tourism on the stat’s economy, “an additional $5 million for the division’s statewide marketing efforts would generate $925 million in new visitor spending and more than $75 million in new state and local tax revenues.”
After the authority approved the resolution, TDA Chairman Kemp Causey commented, “If we do get the $5 million [increase], the state of North Carolina’s tourism budget will be approximately what the City of Myrtle Beach’s is. That’s overwhelming to me.”
sarah shew wilson is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.