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New Watauga County TDA Study Pertains To Brand Position and Marketing Perceptions of High Country, Occupancy Tax Rates ‘Moving in the Right Direction’

HCH Meeting
Wright Tilley, executive director of Watauga County Tourism Development Authority, presents at the annual High Country Host meeting held recently. Photo by Ken Ketchie

By Jesse Wood

May 10, 2013. At High Country Host’s annual meeting recently, Watauga County Tourism Development Authority Executive Director Wright Tilley shared results of a recent tourism study pertaining to brand position and marketing perceptions of Watauga County and the surrounding High Country. 

Some highlights of the study, which included participants from three target areas – Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and Triad – are: 

  •         Average age of visitor: 47
  •         Average length of stay: primarily three nights
  •         Highest visitor demographic: parents with kids
  •         Second highest visitor demographic: adult couples with no kids
  •         Top motivating factors for visiting High Country (in order): Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain, restaurants, rural sightseeing and shopping

“This will provide a benchmark for us going forward in terms of knowing where we rank awareness-wise as a mountain destination, especially in the three key feeder markets of Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and the Triad,” Tilley said, adding that the study will help focus advertising campaigns. 

He added that the majority of respondents of the study noted that they perceived the High Country as a romantic getaway for the weekend in the mountains or family-fun weekend destination.

Partnering with H2R Market Research of Missouri, Magellan Strategy Group of Asheville conducted the $25,000 study that involved 700 participants for the WCTDA.

As an aside, Tilley, on Friday morning, said that based on occupancy-tax figures tourism is growing in the High Country. Through the current fiscal year, occupancy tax in Watauga County is up 10.35 percent over last year.

He added that occupancy tax between Boone, Blowing Rock and Watauga County is up collectively by 7.78 percent.

While he noted that some of the increase, in Boone in particular, could be due to rate increases and product driven due to the replacement of the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center on the campus of ASU, the trend is “moving in the right direction.” 

“All three are trending up for the year,” Tilley said. “That’s good news.”