Mount Airy TDA questions Tourism Partnership

First Posted: 12/1/2009

During the monthly meeting held by the Tourism Partnership of Surry County Tuesday, some concerns were brought forward by Zach Blackmon Jr., chairman of the Greater Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority, that Mount Airy was not getting its fair share of representation in Partnership marketing efforts.
Those concerns were part of a letter from Blackmon to Valerie Oberle, chair of the Tourism Partnership, which was discussed during the meeting.
When we look at the current ads that have been created for this joint effort, were concerned that Mount Airys attractions represent only about 6.5 percent of the graphic coverage in these ads, even though we represent a much, much higher percentage of tourism attractions that bring people and revenues to our area. The Mount Airy TDA currently contributes approximately $90,000 annual (in fiscal year ending 2010) to this fund, which is 55 percent of the overall Tourism Partnership revenue, Blackmons letter stated. We ask that you take a fresh look at this approach as we feel that we deserve a much larger presence in these efforts. This not only brings more tourist dollars to Mount Airy, but to each of the other members as well.
The Tourism Partnership is funded through occupancy taxes collected across the county.
Blackmon also mentioned that the TDA would prefer that natural photography be used in the future rather than the digitized photography that is being used now.
Although we all agree that the advertising efforts are very eye appealing and attractive, were not convinced that using digitized or altered versions of photography is the best approach in appealing to prospective tourists, Blackmon said.
Oberle responded by saying that the reasoning behind featuring Pilot Mountain as the main theme of the Very Surry campaign came from the marketing firm hired by the tourism partnership.
Our marketing team said that Pilot Mountain was the one of most recognizable natural icons in the state. We certainly werent trying to slight anyone or give anybody preferential treatment. Believe it not, I had nothing to do with Pilot Mountain being selected to be the feature of the cover (of the partnership brochure), Oberle said.
Oberle is not only the chair of the Tourism Partnership of Surry County and the chair of the Pilot Mountain TDA, but also has a Pilot Mountain address.
Chris Knopf, assistant county manager of Economic Development and Tourism, said that all of the printed materials with the digitized photos drive visitors to the Web site, which is not digitized.
Oberle said in the five presentations she has given to about 400 people, only two so far have complained about the digitized photos. She added that the reason the partnership chose to go that direction is that everyone else in the state is using actual photographs.
This makes us stand out, she said.
Betty Ann Collins, president of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, said that she would not buy a T-shirt with a photograph of Pilot Mountain because she could just take one herself, but she would buy a T-shirt with the Very Surry logo on it.
Laurette Leagon, president of the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, said she understood exactly the concerns expressed by Blackmon and the Mount Airy group.
We appreciate what you do more than you know, Blackmon responded.
Icenhour said that Surry County is breaking new ground with the tourism authorities working together as a whole.
We are one of the first ones in the state in the country to have a collaboration like this, Icenhour said.
But Mount Airy contributes a lot and we just want to make sure that we are represented, Blackmon said.
The next Tourism Partnership of Surry County meeting will be held on Jan. 5 at Horne Creek park at 12 p.m. For more information, check out
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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