North Carolina was awarded $6.4 million to establish a new tourism-focused economic recovery initiative. The new program, Supporting and Strengthening Resiliency in North Carolina’s Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Sectors Initiative, will help develop and implement economic-building strategies for the recovery of North Carolina’s travel and tourism industries that suffered economic losses due to the pandemic.
“The travel, tourism and outdoor recreation industries are major contributors to North Carolina’s economy, bringing people here from all over the world and making our state a great place to live and work,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “Investing in the resilience and growth of this sector is the right thing to do for our entire economy.”
With funding from a United States Economic Development Administration Tourism Grant, this new initiative will offer a broad spectrum of programs and services to support the development and expansion of the state’s travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation sectors, including the gear manufacturing industry, while increasing the resiliency.
The initiative will capitalize on the state’s ample natural, cultural, and other tourism assets, in addition to growing North Carolina’s outdoor recreation business in rural, underserved communities, including the N.C. Main Street program communities. From strategic economic development planning services to workforce development support, the initiative will also implement strategies that encourage travel and tourism that are consistent with CDC guidelines.
To help accelerate the recovery and rebuilding of the regional tourism, travel and outdoor recreation sectors, the initiative will address the following conditions:
- Workforce training that improves the skills and job opportunities for industry workers
- Economic development planning and coordination that is responsive to the state’s post-pandemic recovery
- Technical programs that assist the regional economies in its pandemic recovery
“North Carolina’s hospitality sector is dependent on a strong economic recovery,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “With the right partnerships, North Carolina will create a more resilient economy for these industries and the thousands of small businesses and workers that rely on visitor spending.”
The N.C. Department of Commerce’s Rural Economic Development Division, the N.C. Pandemic Recovery Office, Appalachian State University, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, and the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association will collaborate on the initiative and support the following program components:
- Appalachian State University | UPLIFT NC Program (Understand, Plan, Link, Innovate, Finance and Tell)
UPLIFT NC will work with rural and under-resourced communities to strengthen and connect tourism sites, services, and businesses.
- North Carolina Department of Commerce | Outdoor Recreation Economy Strategic Planning and Asset Development Program
This program will develop asset-based economic development strategies to identify growth opportunities in the outdoor recreation sector.
- North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association Foundation | Tourism and Hospitality Workforce Development Program
This niche workforce program will deliver a robust offering of tourism and hospitality training and certification courses to new and existing employees in the hospitality industry.
- North Carolina’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office | Statewide Outdoor Recreation Industry Network Program
The program will develop a network that will foster the outdoor recreation industry statewide by promoting, connecting, and supporting businesses within this sector, with a specific focus on increasing outdoor recreation gear manufacturing within the state.
- North Carolina Department of Commerce | N.C. Main to Main Trail Program
The trail is a community economic development initiative that will leverage the state’s natural assets with the historic downtown districts that provide goods, services, and amenities to attract and enhance the visitor experience and regional connectivity.
In 2019, the North Carolina tourism industry contributed more than $29 billion to the state’s economy and 11% of the workforce. While visitor spending decreased by 32% following the pandemic, visitors to N.C. State Parks increased by 1.2 million people compared to 2019.