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JCVB Blog

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau BLOG is published weekly with news and feature articles on visiting the county.
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FAMiliarize Yourself with Johnston County

FAMiliarize Yourself with Johnston County

One of the absolute best parts of my job is hosting FAM Trips, or Familiarization Trips, where travel writers, bloggers, social influencers, and journalists visit my destination. The idea of a FAM Trip is that media guests will familiarize themselves with a destination and enjoy the trip so much that travel stories, articles, and social posts will be written and will attract others to visit the destination.

Travel writers are wonderful people who take joy in traveling and are always amazed at everything Johnston County has to offer. But the thing often talked about the most when I do FAM trips, and the thing I get most excited to share about Johnston County, are the wonderful people who live here. There is an entrepreneurial spirit in JoCo only matched by the spirit of collaboration. 

This week's blog will be a photo collection of the fun times had on the recent FAM trip that the Johnston County Visitors Bureau hosted in conjunction with the North American Travel Journalist Association Conference and all our participating tourism partners. 



Thanks to John at Shenanigans for your excellent transportation services from place to place. We couldn't have gotten there without you. 

 

Enjoying an impressive meal on the first night at Manning's in Downtown Clayton, NC.

 

Revival 1869 shaking-up some fun, original cocktails for a post-dinner nightcap. 

 

Taking a tour at Hinnant Vineyards with amazing weather.

 

Lunch catered by Redneck BBQ Lab at Broadslab Distillery. This stop and this lunch in particular was the subject of a lot of conversations the rest of the tour and conference.

 

Taking a group shot with Jeremy Norris and his still at Broadslab Distillery. 

 

Listening to Deep River owner and brewer Paul Auclair talk about his love of craft beer and the many different styles of beer available at Deep River. 

 

Simple Twist and Double Barley pulled out all the stops for the beer-pairing dinner on the last night of the trip. How amazing does this look? You can find it on the Simple Twist menu... the secret ingredient is Double Barley beer. Whoops! Not a secret anymore. 

 

The group wrapped-up their amazing experience with a tour of Gregory Vineyards.

 

Thank you to all the media who visited. I was honored to show you JoCo. Thank you also to all our wonderful partners who make FAM Trips possible and who make bragging about our destination so easy to do! 

 

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Read the JCVB 2015-16 Annual Report

Read the JCVB 2015-16 Annual Report

Click here to read the Johnston County Visitors Bureau’s 2015-16 Annual Report with financial statements and highlights from the activities of the staff.  The JCVB staff is engaged every day in promoting Johnston County, our hotels, shopping, attractions, and events to attract visitors to our county…who are leaving their dollars behind!!!  

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Visit NC Team announced that domestic visitors to and within Johnston County spent $221.72 million in 2015, an increase of 3.2 percentage from 2014.  Tourism growth in the county continues to be strong and already in 2016 revenues are at record heights.

Our marketing and communication efforts are primarily focused outside the county and along our interstates to reach the traveler who has many choices on where to stop and stay along the way.  However, in 2017 we are committed to increasing the communication to our internal customers within Johnston County on the mission of the Bureau. This includes our continued partnerships with the tourism industry, non-profit organizations in the county, our town tourism marketing committees, the Johnston County Sports Council, and the Johnston County Hospitality Association.  

Our primary goal which is mandated by enabling legislation is to utilize the local room tax to market our tourism industry partners helping to bring economic prosperity to the county.  However, we also want you to know us as an agency and our vision for tourism in the county.  We invite you to connect to us on social media, visit our offices, or attend a board meeting... working together we will continue to see great things happen in Johnston County!

With warm regards,


Donna Bailey-Taylor, CDME
President/CEO

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Tourism Director Celebrates 20 Years with JCVB

Tourism Director Celebrates 20 Years with JCVB

Donna Bailey-Taylor, Director of the Johnston County Tourism Authority, recently celebrated 20 years in her position. I sat down to ask her a few questions about how Johnston County's tourism industry has grown over the two decades since she started working to bring tourists to JoCo. I also asked about her experience in the Travel Tourism industry and what she thinks the future holds for tourism in Johnston County.

You’ve been at the JCVB for 20 years, but how long have you worked in the Travel and Tourism industry?

So all together I have been in the hospitality industry for thirty-five years. I began my career working in the hotel industry, first in sales for Hilton Hotels and later working for hotel development companies in regional sales and marketing.  I have opened hotels from the ground up and traveled extensively to support sales efforts for multiple brands.

As I started a family, the need to get off the road was important to me, so I transitioned to work for a convention and visitors bureau.  Since I was used to promoting whole communities and selling experiences, the move was a natural fit for me.  

What drew you to this industry?

After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Industrial Relations, the jobs available to me all seemed to be in manufacturing or banking.  Also, it was 1981 and the unemployment rate was 22% in North Carolina.  I tried hotel sales and found out I was good at it!  I discovered I enjoyed meeting people and providing a service.  

What keeps you in this industry?

The variety of tasks each day continues to make my job rich and enjoyable.  From designing the next ad campaign or revamping the Visitors Guide, then community planning for new wayfinding signage or working with area museum boards to provide engaging visitor experiences….it’s diverse and ever changing.  I don’t think I could do the same task day in and day out.  

What has changed in tourism for Johnston County over the course of 2 decades?

With Johnston County being one of the fastest growing counties, not only in North Carolina but in the nation, tourism has grown fast as well.  When I started here in August of 1996, our annual operating budget was around $325,000 and today it tops $1.2 million.  Tourism marketing today has changed tremendously with the creation of social media, hand-held marketing devices we call mobile phones, and the niche marketing campaigns needed to reach the right customer, at the right time, with the right message.  

I would have to say 20 years ago, having billboards and a visitors guide were our primary goals, and today our marketing plan targets leisure travelers, sports tournaments, girlfriend shopping get-a-ways, and culinary travelers with the development of the Beer, Wine and Shine Trail.

What challenges do rural destinations face in marketing themselves?

Funding and staffing resources are often the first challenges because there never seems to be enough of either in small Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs).  And second, getting the attention of community leaders, state offices and residents on the importance of tourism to the community.  Our industry is made up of small businesses, but collectively visitor spending in hotels, restaurants, travel services, dining, shopping and area attractions is huge…it’s a big deal and in some rural communities it may have the potential to be their number one industry.

What have you accomplished at the JCVB that you’re particularly proud of?

Tourism development projects where our staff has volunteered countless hours helping to establish the Ava Gardner Museum, the Benson Museum of Local History, marketing for the Bentonville re-enactment, completing the county-wide Parks & Recreation Master Plan, and serving on many boards to lend our talents to the tourism industry…I feel this has been a grass-roots effort to build up the tourism infrastructure in the county.  You don’t see that commitment in many bureaus, who only see their job as driving visitors to the area.  In an emerging destination, building up the visitor experience is so important.  We want to be more than a stop-over on the way to some other destination – and more than “half-way between New York and Florida”.  

What would you like to accomplish still?

I would like to see the completion of the Mountains to Sea Trail between the towns of Clayton and Smithfield and the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site get a new state of the art Visitor Center with new exhibits, something the Friends of Bentonville group has been working on for many years.  

Also, I would like to see the Visitors Bureau secure a permanent home for our offices, as we have been renting space for more than 25 years.

You have family roots in the Benson area, what does working to promote Johnston County mean to you?

To me, this job is more than working to promote Johnston County – my heart is full of wonderful memories spent on the Bailey Farm just outside of Benson.  I feel we need to work toward preserving our heritage, whether it be farming, Civil War battlefields, or our connection to Hollywood.  That’s why over 12 years ago, we held classes on agri-tourism as a way to sustain the family farm and bring revenues to area farmers.  That’s why I continue to volunteer my time and talents to area non-profits.

I believe if we all work together we will all succeed!

How does tourism positively effect residents in Johnston County?

Tourism means dollars for small business owners – in 2015 more than $215 million was spent in Johnston County by visitors.  If the county did not have a strong tourism economy we would not have national brand shopping at our fingertips at Carolina Premium Outlets and dining opportunities like Starbucks, or Chipotle’s which just opened in Smithfield this year.

But just as important to us is showcasing local, independent business owners like Ray Wheeler at Atkinson’s Mill, Rufus Brown at Johnston County Hams and many others that have wonderful stories to tell. Visitors are interested in authenticity and we have plenty to share with them in Johnston County.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

Something creative is my first choice…painting, pottery, and photography to name a few.  Watching movies with my son Trey and reading detective novels on my IPAD.  Nothing fancy… for me, spending time with family is just a perfect day!  

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Bureau News and 2015 Annual Report

JCVB Visitor CenterThe Johnston County Tourism Authority welcomes new board members, presents 2015 Annual Report to County Commissioners, and elects officers to lead the board and oversee the operation of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau.  

We are always excited to welcome members of the community to serve on the Tourism Authority Board to help lead the efforts of tourism promotion and development for Johnston County. All board members serve on either the Marketing Committee or Special Projects Committee which work directly with the staff on establishing the annual budget and overseeing all projects by the bureau.

Randy Capps, owner of Shandy Communications whose company prints the Four Oaks Journal, was appointed by the Four Oaks Chamber of Commerce.  Capps replaces Stacey Lee, who resigned in November due to work commitments.  Randy has work experience in journalism and worked for the Fayetteville Observer for eight years.  

Rick Childrey, President of the Greater Smithfield/Selma Chamber of Commerce was appointed by the County Commissioners for a three-year term.  Childrey replaces Warren Stancil, who resigned in August of last year. Childrey has a long-standing relationship with the Visitors Bureau, as the offices for the bureau staff were once located in the Lee House on Outlet Center Drive.  Childrey has been the President of the Smithfield-Selma Area Chamber since 1986.

Election of Officers and Committee Chair Appointments...

The board held open elections for officers to serve for two-year terms.  Keith Brinson, of Farm Bureau Insurance appointed by the Smithfield/Selma Chamber, was elected Chairperson.  Scotty Henley, Executive Director of The Clayton Center appointed by the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, was elected Vice-Chairperson. Lynn Daniels was reelected as Secretary of the Authority, a position she has held for the past two years.

Ernie Brame, Manager of Kenly 95 Petro, was appointed as Chairperson of the Special Events Committee.  Rosa Andrews, Johnston Community College, was appointed Chairperson of the Marketing Committee.  New board members Randy Capps and Rick Childrey will both serve on the Special Project Committee which oversees the Capital and Special Events grant programs.

2015 JCVB Annual Report...

During an extended board meeting the Tourism Authority presented the 2015 Annual Report to the County Commissioners. Highlights and staff accomplishments from 2014/2015, the year-end financial statement, visitor spending numbers and overall state of tourism for Johnston County were discussed. To download or read the JCVB Annual Report -- CLICK HERE. 

Other bureau news...

Sarah Campbell, Sports and Leisure Sales Manager, is attending the Southeast Tourism Society, Marketing College to further her education in destination marketing.  This three-year, week long course introduces Sarah to a curriculum of courses designed to teach marketing techniques from all facets of the tourism industry.  Upon completion of the three-year Marketing College curriculum, she will receive a Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) certification.

In January, the Visitors Bureau began the second year of the JoCo Hospitality Association, a membership based tourism industry advisory committee to the authority.  Invitations were sent to area businesses to become members, cost is $50 for the organization.  The group meets four times a year on the fourth Tuesday at 2pm in January, April, July and October.  Guest speakers and workshops are held for education and networking for the group to foster better relationships in the tourism community in Johnston County.

Also in January, the Johnston County Sports Council members attended the County Commissioner's Jan. 4th meeting to continue the discussion on the recommendations from the County-wide Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Since the completion of the plan in April, the Visitors Bureau staff continues to work on low-impact recreation projects like Bike Route Signage and Boat Ramps on the Neuse River.  Larger projects like the completion of the Mountains to the Sea Trail are topics the Sports Council wants to address with the commissioners, and having a dedicated staff person to pursue the plan's recommendations.

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau oversees the marketing efforts for the county to attract and serve visitors, therefore increasing the economic impact for the local economy.  In addition, the Towns of Benson, Kenly, Selma and Smithfield have a 2% occupancy tax that is managed by the Visitors Bureau and is dedicated to each town's marketing efforts.  To learn more about the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, please contact Donna Bailey-Taylor, President/CEO at 919-989-8687 or visit the website, www.johnstoncountync.org/working-with-the-jcvb

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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

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Travel around the county to four award-winning wineries, two breweries and get a taste of brandy along the way!  Receive a Free $30 coupon book when you complete the trail.

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Meeting Planners

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Johnston County offers conveniently located and affordable conference facilities for meetings, reunions, and unique destination weddings sites.  Why not select a historic home or horse farm for your next event?

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Group Tour Operators

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Groups have discovered exits along I-40 and I-95 for outlet shopping, music theatre, museums and heritage sites.  Call today for custom itinerary planning.

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Hotel Packages

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We have created several special hotel packages including a Girlfriends Getaway for outlet shopping, we know you need a break and great deals on shoes!  Click here to book your getaway today.

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