The tourism division of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina is reaching out to travelers with a new marketing campaign that taps into the first-in-a-lifetime experiences to be found across the state and the life-changing rewards of travel.

“Firsts create powerful memories that stay with you for a lifetime,” said Wit Tuttell, executive director of the Visit North Carolina division. “North Carolina is an endless source for people to add richness to their life story.”

Jazmene Craig of Columbus, Ohio, and 5-year-old daughter Peyton get their feet wet on their first trip to the coast. Photo courtesy of Visit NC

Titled “Firsts That Last,” the campaign TV spots feature real-life travelers on their first visit to North Carolina, each to experience something they have never seen or done before.

An Ohio mother and her young daughter journeyed to the Outer Banks to see the ocean, a trip that tightened their bond as they experienced other firsts — flying a kite, climbing a lighthouse and seeing wild horses that roam the beach. A newlywed couple, who are blending a family with five children in Auburn, Alabama, explored waterfalls and other wonders in forests near Brevard, Mills River and Saluda. A couple who are New York musicians traveled to Chapel Hill, Benson and Saxapahaw for a moonshine experience in which they savored serenity at local farms and the fruit of the land at tables and tasting rooms.

Promoting North Carolina for tourism supports the EDPNC’s mission of supporting the creation of new jobs in the state. It also enhances perceptions of the state in a way that can more broadly encourage economic development.

“Every paid media dollar we spend promoting tourism in North Carolina generates $184 in new visitor spending and $15 in new state and local tax revenues,” Tuttell said. “In 2016, domestic travelers spent $22.9 billion in North Carolina, which accounted for 218,340 jobs and approximately $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenues.”

The campaign is based on research that reveals deep connections travelers make when they come to North Carolina. The campaign is targeted to people who like North Carolina but have yet to experience the state and make those connections.

New Yorkers Zac Zinger and Tomo Akaboshi see the chickens at Reverence Farms near Saxapahaw. On their first visit to North Carolina, they tasted moonshine for the first time and connected farm to table and glass. Photo courtesy of Visit NC

“More than 80 percent of people who come here return again and again,” said Mark Shore, Visit NC’s director of marketing. “This campaign is designed to appeal to people who have an affinity for North Carolina, but for whatever reason have never visited, by showcasing the kinds of memorable firsts to be experienced here in the Tar Heel State.”

In addition to the TV spots, the campaign includes national print, digital display, paid search and social, streaming video and out-of-home media, plus a revamped VisitNC.com website that features long-form videos showcasing each of the real-life travelers’ “firsts” and itineraries for others who want to experience those destinations. The campaign launches this spring in target markets including Atlanta, Nashville, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Orlando and Columbus, Ohio.

The marketing campaign was produced documentary style, with crews shadowing the real-life visitors as they explored destinations throughout North Carolina. The travelers were selected through real people casting based on their locations, the fact they had never visited North Carolina and the vacation experience they were seeking.

“Traditional tourism marketing focuses on demographics, but we really wanted to tap into the mindset that inspires travel decisions,” Shore said. “Travel inspires feeling – whether it’s relaxation, connecting with loved ones, or being energized by your surroundings. ‘Firsts That Last’ shows real people having rich experiences and creating lasting memories, an authentic expression of what North Carolina has to offer.”

About Visit North Carolina

Visit North Carolina serves as the tourism marketing arm of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC), which is contracted by the North Carolina Department of Commerce to execute North Carolina’s marketing and recruitment functions. The partnership serves to assist efforts in economic development, international trade, and tourism, film and sports development.