Wit Tuttell is a research guy. Heading into the coming year as chairperson for Travel South USA, North Carolina’s state travel director has research efforts at the top of his personal queue for the 12-state travel organization.
“We need better standardized research for the domestic group market and for our international inbound marketing efforts,” said Tuttell, director of Visit North Carolina. “By leveraging the resources of a dozen states, we can go a long way in standardizing the research we all tap into.”
Travel South USA began working with Tourism Economics several years ago, and the effort is beginning to pay off. Tourism Economics produces standardized research and forecasts trends for more than 250 organizations across the globe. Travel South USA is a pilot project for its international tourism analytics research that examines visitation, market share and travel trends for participating countries, regions and states.
Tuttell is a big believer in collective programming as well, and he cites the group’s ability to leverage dollars to everyone’s benefit as one of its biggest assets.
“The Travel South Tour Planner your company publishes is a great example of that,” he said. “It’s successful because it spreads the investment across 12 states. Our Ultimate Ad Challenge is another. We’re getting into media programs now that are very measureable, which is great. As individual states, we couldn’t demand that much attention from some of these media companies. Another is Domestic Showcase. We draw the buyers we need to be successful because of the collective importance of our respective destinations.”
Tuttell may be a big supporter of shared interests among his Travel South colleagues, but he also doesn’t mind heralding the new developments in his home state.
“Hosting Travel South Showcase in Winston-Salem a couple of years ago is still paying benefits for us,” he said. “We are seeing new group business from tour operators who came, and we’re still generating exposure from journalists who participated.
“Storytelling is a common theme for all of us in the South because that’s what today’s travelers respond to,” he said. “Why did the Wright brothers come to North Carolina to fly? Because we have islands 26 miles out in the ocean and the winds are what they needed. What is Ocracoke brogue? Why do they have their own language there?
“In Jacksonville, North Carolina, at Mission Barbecue, everyone stands at noon each day to join in singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ People come from everywhere just to be there for that. And we have a new craft brewery in Hendersonville that is our first opened by an African-American female brewer. L.A. McCrae has opened Black Star Line brewery there, and it’s a pretty cool story.
“If you have groups that are into pirates, next year we’re celebrating the 300th anniversary of the death of Blackbeard, the famous pirate who sailed the Eastern Seaboard and ran aground near Beaufort,” said Tuttell. “There will be events at Beaufort Pirate Invasion in Beaufort, during Piratefest in Greenville and at Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree at Ocracoke.”