In addition to the obvious benefits of tourism — jobs and revenue for the county — tourism dollars save Haywood County residents a few hundred dollars in taxes every year.
Steve Morse, a mathematics professor at the University of Tennessee, presented business owners and county tourism leaders with a faux jumbo check made out to “Each County Household.” The check was for $334.
Without tourism dollars, every household would be paying out that much more money in taxes each year.
Tourists are “temporary taxpayers,” said Morse, who spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority celebrating National Tourism Week.
“What a country! Where you can have people say, ‘Please come pay part of our taxes,’ and people say, ‘Sure,’” Morse said.
The tourism and hospitality industry constitute one-fifth of the jobs in Haywood County, Morse added.
“Tourism plays a large role in many people’s lives,” Morse said.
Even that truism seems like an understatement when looking at recent tourism spending numbers, which have rebounded back to pre-recession figures.
In 2007, $116.7 million was spent on tourism in Haywood County — only $400,000 more than in 2010.
“As we look forward, we see a bright future,” said Lynn Collins, executive director of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority.
One particular advantage that Haywood County, and Western North Carolina in general, have over other parts of the country is an abundance of adventure activities — kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and the like.
“Adventure tourism is hot as a firecracker,” Morse said.
Morse pointed out that the same perks that make Haywood County a great place to visit can turn those visitors into residents or business owners.
“Today’s visitor could tomorrow’s business investor,” Morse said.
And, although good schools, affordable housing, available transportation and low tax and crime rates are still important, the next generation of entrepreneurs is also looking for open spaces, “local, unique flavor,” a sense of community, diverse cultures and natural resources when finding a place to settle.
“They want to live in Mayberry,” Morse said.
With changes in technology, people will be able to work from pretty much anywhere, he said, and Haywood County should play up its attributes to draw in new residents and businesses.
“People will change to live and work in places with diverse cultures,” Morse said.