Beaufort County benefits from record tourism spending

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – There are big things happening in the small confines of Beaufort County. The rural county saw historic spending during the 2016 calendar year.

According to recent tourism numbers, more than $81 million were spent within Beaufort County, up nearly 5% from the next highest total, $78 million in 2015.

“We’re having a lot of North Carolina visitors that are exploring new parts of the state, and perhaps Beaufort County is a new part of the state,” said Lynn Wingate-Davis, director of the Washington Tourism Development Authority.

In years past, Wingate-Davis said they’ve tried to capitalize on weddings and attracting people during ECU home football games.

This year, they’ve turned their attention to the digital platform, trying to push everything someone can find in Beaufort County in a convenient location.

“Beaufort County is performing quite well in comparison to other northeastern communities,” she said. “I think it’s showing that the economy is turning around, that people have a little more confidence.”

She said a big reason for the spending growth is what the county offers — from the mom and pop stores and fine dining, to education centers like the Aurora Fossil Museum and the North Carolina Estuarium.

People who live in the area are surprised about the big spending.

“It absolutely blows my mind,” said Luanne Perry, who moved to Bath from Baltimore. “I think it’s fantastic though.”

“Definitely not,” said Samantha Mason.” Definitely not, just because it’s a small town.”

Some are hopeful the recent growth will spur more economic activity and lead to new businesses opening up in the county.

Wingate-Davis said they just had several properties sell in the downtown area, and there are plans to add a brewery near the waterfront in Little Washington.

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