Tourism and the opportunities that come with it are growing.
Tourism is one of North Carolina's largest industries, with spending of approximately $16.8 billion in 2008 (source: Chris Cavanaugh, chairman of the North Carolina Travel and Tourism Board, writing in the Asheville Citizen-Times). A sizable portion of this spending is focused on the coastal resort areas in and around the Eastern Region - and along the Interstate Highway corridors passing through the Region.
The Leisure Traveler.
A steady increase in tourism and business-related travel in recent years has helped make the hospitality industry a major economic engine throughout the Eastern Region. Tourists have discovered the unspoiled natural beauty and relative lack of congestion in the Region's beach areas.
Three of the Region's counties front the Atlantic Ocean: Carteret, Onslow and Pamlico. These areas are experiencing especially rapid growth in the number of tourists visiting. Through an aggressive marketing effort, the Region's convention and visitors bureaus and related organizations have extended the traditional summer season well into the spring and fall "shoulder" months. As a result, coastal communities are benefiting from what is becoming a year-round visitation season.
The Region also benefits greatly from having attractive historic sites, state and federal parks, eco-tourism attractions, and many special events venues. Historic communities such as New Bern, Swansboro and others benefit as the interest in heritage tourism continues to grow.
The Business Traveler.
For many travelers, the Rocky Mount/Wilson area is an excellent halfway point along I-95 between New England and Florida - a fact that has fueled the growth of hotel and restaurant operations along that stretch of coastal Interstate. The most recent traffic counts indicate that approximately 35,000 individuals travel this corridor daily.
Several factors drive business travel in the Eastern Region. First, the area has developed several regional convention centers that are emerging as popular business event venues. These include the Craven County Convention Center in New Bern, the Crystal Coast Convention Center in Morehead City, the Greenville Convention Center and the Gateway Convention Center in Rocky Mount. All of these combine to provide opportunities for trade shows, training conferences and other events that attract increasing numbers of business travelers.
The high concentration of military installations in the Region also helps add to the number of business travelers. Many representatives of defense industry firms and related contractors travel to the Region on a regular basis - and often remain here for days and even weeks at a time.
Tourism Management Training
East Carolina University offers two bachelor's degree programs and associated graduate level concentrations as well as a unique master of science degree in sustainable tourism to support the hospitality industry:
- Hospitality Management - There are approximately 275 undergraduates and 10 MBA students in this program, with undergraduate concentrations in Restaurant Management, Hotel Management, and Conventions and Special Events Management. The program includes a required 600-hour internship component. Specialized instruction programs for the business community are available on a case-by-case basis.
- Recreational and Leisure Studies - This program, which centers around the activities found in parks and other recreational complexes and within commercial tourism venues, has over 200 undergraduate students and 30 graduate level students. This program also focuses on internship opportunities for students.
- Sustainable Tourism - East Carolina offers the nation' only Master of Science degree in the field of sustainable tourism - it's aimed at those who look to overcome the challenges facing tourism and destination communities. It presents an interdisciplinary view of sustainable tourism that focuses not only on environmental concerns, but also economic success, cultural vitality and responsible growth.
For more information about travel and attractions in North Carolina's Eastern Region, click here for our tourism site.