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Tourism conference puts Greenville in spotlight

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Karen Tegan, Heather Meech, Taylor Hardin and Michelle Yelton enjoy barbecue wings and other local food items during the Visit North Carolina 365 Conference at the Greenville Convention Center.


Sharieka Botex
The Daily Reflector

Monday, March 20, 2017

A three-day tourism conference that kicked off Sunday gives Greenville a chance to showcase itself to a brand-new audience — and perhaps some who haven’t visited in a while.

“There’s people at this conference that haven’t been to Greenville in probably about 10 to 15 years, so their perception is it’s still a small little tobacco town,” Andrew Schmidt, executive director of Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Sunday. “Being able to get those folks back here to see the changes, that’s the macro impact. That's the exposure that helps us change perception about what Greenville was and what we are today.”

About 500 tourism professionals are in town for the annual Visit North Carolina 365 Conference, being held through Tuesday at the Greenville Convention Center. The conference is being held in Greenville for the first time and is being hosted by the Greenville-Pitt County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Greenville Hospitality Partners.

“It’s exciting for us because we never hosted it before,” Schmidt said.

“You’re looking at about close to $200,000 into our local economy because of this conference,” Schmidt said. “I think the day pattern of having the conference start on a Sunday and end on a Tuesday (is) beneficial to the economy as well because Sundays and Mondays are usually your slower days with your hospitality outlets, your hotels and restaurants, so I think that’s a plus.”

Wit Tuttell, director of Visit NC, has attended the conference in other cities, including Cherokee, Pinehurst, Wilmington, Charlotte, Concord, Asheville and New Bern. Greenville’s recent expansion of its convention center and three hotels on the convention center campus gave it the necessary facilities to accommodate such an event, he said.

“We want to make sure the facility is right, we have the space we need and accommodations are nearby,” Tuttell said. “It also helps that there’s some things to do. ... Greenville really did a great job in showing excitement, enthusiasm and willingness to work with us to make everybody have a great time while we are here.”

As an appreciator of barbecue, Tuttell is looking forward to sampling some of the local fare. Visitors will get an opportunity to tour part of the city, including some of the downtown development and the dining scene. 

“We are excited to showcase it for the entire state hospitality industry because you know these people go out and they will go back to Charlotte, Raleigh and Asheville, and they will talk about it,” Tuttell said. “I think that will really help Greenville in the future.” 

Tuttell said Greenville has maintained its character while also growing.

“You still get the barbecue joints and the feel for that,” he said. “You’ve got the university and the big health care system, but when you walk around the Uptown, you really get a feeling that you're in Greenville. I think that’s neat. I think people will appreciate that. We tend to generalize things, but when you see a place you really get a specific feel for it and I think people are going to be excited about it.”

Part of the conference will focus on educating residents about the value of travel and tourism. Hosting the conference is validation that Greenville has reached a certain mark as a travel destination, Schmidt said.

“When you can bring more people to your community, private developers see that too, and they say, ‘Gosh, they’ve got 500 people here for this conference.’ ... They see opportunities to expand business. It’s kind of all interrelated actually.”  

Tuttell said the impact of 500 people being in the city for a few days should not be underestimated.

“That’s a tremendous impact because they stay in hotel rooms, they eat meals, they buy gas, they will make some trips to the Walmart,” he said. “It’s a really big economic impact on the community to house these people. The real benefit of it is they are going to go back to their destination in North Carolina and tell people what a great time they had and get even more people to come out so I think it will be really good for the economy of Greenville.” 

Contact Sharieka Botex at 252-329-9567 and sbotex@reflector.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShariekaB.