Tourism summit is Thursday at SCC Viticulture Center

By Jessica Johnson

April 22, 2014

Tourism is a major drive for Surry County's economy, and a Tourism Summit on Thursday evening will give everyone a chance to celebrate that success and look toward the future.

The Tourism Summit will take place on April 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Viticulture and Enology Center at Surry Community College. The event was rescheduled after February's date was affected by a snowstorm that hit the area.

The tourism summit will include an overview of topics that affect the future of tourism for Surry County, Director of Tourism and Marketing for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Center Jessica Icenhour Roberts shared.

“We will also talk about our public relations efforts over the past year. It's a very informational, educational, and exciting event, and we would love the public and business community to join us — learn more about and celebrate the great things we have going on here in Surry County,” she said.

Tourism representatives for attractions, wineries, restaurants, and lodging will be in attendance. Prior to the start of the event, Roberts said there will be time for networking, speaking to destination and attraction representatives, and tasting a selection of Surry County wines and appetizers.

Out of approximately 35 wineries in the Yadkin Valley Wine Region, at least 15 are located in Surry County, with three more set to open this year, according to Roberts. Wine visitors rank second in terms of reasons for visitation to the area, according to visitor center staff, coming in close behind Mayberry tourism.

Wit Tuttell, executive director for the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film, and Sports Development, will be the keynote speaker. Tuttell has more than 12 years of experience in the tourism industry and served in the past as the director of tourism marketing and the public relations director for the N.C. Division of Tourism.

Roberts said that Tuttell is a “great speaker who will give us a good grasp on how involved the county is with the tourism industry.” She added that Tuttell has been to the area for media missions in the past and has “worked with us a great deal.”

“We are very excited about this event. It's a showcase of what Surry County has to offer. People will get to see, hear, and literally taste what we have to offer. Wineries will be set up so people can taste wines, or get a glass of wine, as well as a bit to eat. It's going to be fun, and we are encouraging everyone who has businesses involved in the tourism industry, local business and organization representatives, people interested in tourism in general, to come out to the Tourism Summit. This will open up opportunities for working together to promote this area, as well as referring visitors to other businesses and attractions. This is what it is all about — getting the word out about tourism in Surry County, what it has done for us, and what it is doing across the state.”

Roberts shared that a large selection of businesses and individuals have already RSVP'd for the event, including an “across-the-board representation” of businesses from all around and outside of the county, including wineries, breweries, people starting new businesses, representatives from the Blue Ridge Heritage area, representatives with the UNC-Greensboro Hospitality and Tourism Department, those who are interested in the area in general, as well as local and state officials.

“This event is a celebration of what we have already done, in terms of tourism and marketing, and a look toward our future. We want the public to know we are doing what we can to promote Surry County — we want to bring visitors here to spend money with us, which requires us all working together. We are making good things happen in Surry County.”

The event is hosted by the Tourism Partnership of Surry County.

For more information about the Surry County Tourism Summit, contact Jessica Roberts at or call 786-6116. The event is free and open to the public.

In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, visitors to Surry County spent $107.06 million, an increase of 4 percent from 2011, and indications show that even more was spent last year. Visitors to the area bring money from other places to spend on lodging, food, gas, recreation, and entertainment and this money translates into wages, salaries, and profits for Surry County's citizens, 770 of whom are directly employed in the travel and tourism industry as of 2012, with a payroll of $14.92 million. Because of tourism spending, each household in Surry County pays $241 less in state and local taxes as a result of taxes generated by tourism spending, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism.

Surry County ranks 36 out of 100 counties in the state, in terms of tourism spending since 2004. Tourism is a $19.4 billion industry in North Carolina, which supports more than 40,000 tourism businesses and jobs across the state. North Carolina ranks as the sixth most-visited state in the United States.

Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 and on Twitter @MountAiryJess.