LAURINBURG — Cory Hughes is a people person, so when he sees 19,000 vehicles rolling through Scotland County along U.S. 74, it makes him start to wonder how the county and city of Laurinburg can get some of them to stop.
Hughes visited the Laurinburg Rotary Club on Tuesday to talk about what he does as executive director of the Tourism Development Authority.
“One of the favorite parts of my job is meeting people and greeting people,” he said. “And the more people we can get here, the more successful we can be.”
The TDA was established by the North Carolina General Assembly just after the turn of the century, and lawmakers passed legislation that mapped out exactly how tourism dollars generated through a hotel/motel tax must be used.
“Two-thirds of the money has to be used for marketing,” Hughes said. “The other third can be used for administrative costs. That keeps some towns or individuals from pirating the money and, pretty soon, there’s no tourism dollars left.”
Hughes added that, in Scotland County, tourism has a $45 million economic impact every year.
“And we are constantly trying to increase that impact,” he said. “Right now. we’re looking at a three-prong attack.”
Hughes said there is a bigger push to “put heads in beds” at local hotels and motels; using billboards and other message boards; and creating new opportunities and events.
“We’re always looking for new things — sometimes we can fund them 100 percent, sometimes we can do a percentage and there are times we say no thank you because it isn’t a good fit for us,” Hughes said. “But we’re about to get into a very busy time of year for us here, and we expect a lot of tourists to visit.”
Hughes was referring to the Kuumba Festival on Sept. 22, the Scotland County Highland Games on Oct. 5-7, the John Blue Cotton Festival on Oct. 13-14 and the Storytelling Event on Oct. 20. He also listed the Christmas on Main event set for Nov. 18 and the more than month-long ‘Tis the Season holiday activities running from late November and into January.
With the impending arrival of Hurricane Florence, Hughes told the Rotarians that many local folks will need help and many out-of-towners will be coming through the area.
“We need to at least extend a hand and say hello,” he said. “And if you can help them in any way, please do so they remember us as a friendly, helpful place.”
Hughes also read a letter to the editor published after the state softball tournament in Laurinburg from someone who gave Laurinburg officials, businesses and residents praise for the welcome and hospitality that was shown.
“And this came from someone who lives out of town and was affected in a positive way.” Hughes said.
He wrapped up saying he is currently involved with the state on a joint website to promote local information on hotels, motels and other facilities helpful to those who have been evacuated from their homes because of the storm.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-50603023 or [email protected]