Updated 01/21/2009 07:19 PM
Surry County looks to increase tourism
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MOUNT AIRY, N.C. – Efforts are underway in Surry County to attract more tourists to the county, and the vision of the county's tourism partnership extends beyond the county line.
Mention Surry County and most people first think of Mount Airy, the real-life Mayberry made famous by the Andy Griffith Show. But the tourism partnership said the county has a lot more to offer.
"The outdoor activities, a lot of people can claim that but I think in Surry County ours just range from hikes on the Appalachian Trail up in the Blue Ridge Mountains to Stone Mountain, Pilot Mountain, Sauratown Mountain, horseback riding, canoeing and biking," Valerie Oberle, chair of the Tourism Partnership of Surry County, said.
And Surry County also offers what Oberle calls new experiences.
"Exploring the wineries, watching them make wine, learning how that whole process goes about," Oberle said.
The partnership is made up of the tourism development authorities of Elkin, Mount Airy, Dobson and Pilot Mountain.
It's hired a consultant to help develop strategies to generate more visits to the county.
"The branding study is basically to figure out who we're going to draw, how we're going to brand ourselves to this area," Jessica Icenhour, tourism director for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, said.
Icenhour said the partnership will likely make its strongest pitch to baby boomers.
"We see that when they come into our visitors center, I would say anywhere from 45 to 50, late 50s. We get a lot of those," Icenhour said. "And a lot of the Gen-Xers, too, are starting to come to this area, again for the wine region."
Officials said state figures show tourism had an economic impact on Surry County of $83 million in 2007, up seven percent from 2006.
The partnership will also promote tourist visits to destinations just outside the county, such as the Raffaldini Vineyards in Wilkes County.
"We do want to promote Surry County, but we have so many other assets within the Yadkin Valley, which Surry County is a part of," Laurette Leagon, president of the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, said. "So, to exclude those would actually hurt our efforts in promoting tourism in Surry County."
The branding study is expected to wrap up in April.