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Survey: Tourists planning to visit beaches this summer despite economy

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Regular visitors to Brunswick beaches plan to make a similar number of trips in 2009 as they did this year, although they plan to travel closer to home and spend less money.

That’s according to a recent survey commissioned by the county’s Tourism Development Authority.

The TDA’s marketing company, Smith Advertising, surveyed 612 people in the authority’s base and discovered that improvement in gasoline prices has had a positive effect on vacation planning, with 29 percent of respondents more likely to travel versus 13 percent traveling less.

Two-thirds of the respondents said they are planning to visit Brunswick beaches in 2009.

About 60 percent of those surveyed said they expect to take about the same number of vacation trips in 2009. One-fourth of the participants expect to vacation closer to home while 14 percent expect to travel farther away.

Thirty percent said they would be spending less on their vacation trips next year, while 20 percent are expecting to spend more.

Fifty-six percent of those planning on visiting Brunswick County in 2009 said they would eat out less often; 44 percent said they would look for lower-cost accommodations; 29 percent said they would stay a shorter time; 24 percent would cut back on other activities; 24 percent would look to find a larger home and share the cost, and 12 percent would visit less often.

According to the surveyors, the Brunswick Islands “can withstand generally pessimistic public opinion about the economy and enjoy a profitable year” if the TDA targets nearby markets within a reasonable drive time, emphasizes its inventory of larger vacation homes with multiple bedrooms and fully equipped kitchens, promotes cost-saving packages and special offers; and encourages those who are in the database to visit.

Reasonable gasoline prices will also be a major factor in attracting visitors.

Mitzi York, the TDA’s executive director, said recently given the circumstances of the economy, the results are positive for Brunswick County.

“We had a significant number saying they were still planning to take their trip. That’s very positive news. We know the people who visit Brunswick County are very loyal to Brunswick County.”

York said the TDA and its partners in the tourism industry will most likely use the information to their advantage by marketing even closer to home and emphasizing the availability of large beach houses that can house multiple families.

“We need to focus a little more on that kind of thing, particularly in our e-communication,” she said.

The TDA’s new database system, which keeps track of people who visit www.ncbrunswickislands.com, allows York and her staff to communicate easier and cheaper than before.

“We sent out an e-communication before Thanksgiving, and we’ll send another out for the week between Christmas and New Year’s,” York said.

The TDA plans to do another survey in February or March “to see if there’s any change in people’s thinking overall.”