Last year around this time, live local went on the road to experiment the possibility of only supporting small businesses while traveling: no chains—hotel, restaurants, shopping excursions, etc. Our journey took us up to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the Hudson River Valley. I reported back my discovery of a bed and breakfast that grew most of their own food and participated in a local currency program, the Berkshares. Jock and I had one of the most wonderful trips we have ever had, largely because of the people we met and places we discovered as a result of our small-businesses commitment.
Summer is here, and with it comes family-vacation time. From a CNBC report on May 17, 2011: “Travel revenue is expected to rise 5.5 percent in 2011, driven by a surge in international visitors, to $795 billion, according to the U.S. Travel Association.”
Well, it is good to hear that sector of the economy is recovering. One of the most often cited reasons for staying at a bed and breakfast rather than a chain hotel is the personal attention and care from the innkeepers. I would like to propose another one: They see exactly where they are spending their money. In fact, visitors have breakfast with innkeepers daily. The innkeepers are beneficiaries of hard-earned brass; they in turn spend it on their mortgage, necessities of running a business and the food they eat and feed customers—all from their own communities.
I got an e-mail from where we stayed, the Camellia House Bed and Breakfast (not to be confused with Wilmington’s very own Camellia Cottage Bed and Breakfast) earlier this year. The innkeepers, Paula Tirrito and Steven Slavonic, had put together a pamphlet titled “And Now for Something Completely Local…” This garnered my immediate attention—and not just because I love Monty Python and all-things local. I remembered some stats I read from the Cape Fear Coast Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “The 2009 Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties” study was prepared for the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development by the U.S. Travel Association. The study revealed that in the year 2009 the economic impact from domestic travel in New Hanover County was estimated at $390.38 million.
That’s pretty significant! I wondered how that translated into jobs; the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau anticipated my question. “According to the study, in 2009 Travel and Tourism in New Hanover County provided more than 5,200 jobs and supported a payroll of $92.31 million. Travel and Tourism also generated $35.96 million in state and local tax receipts.”
There are few things in the world that gall me as much as hearing small-business owners send customers to chain stores, or even worse, the Internet. Last year, I was trying to purchase a rotary cheese grater, and visited multiple small kitchen and gourmet shops in my quest. I actually had small business owners direct me to The Pampered Chef, Walmart (really?), websites and Harris Teeter. The shock on their faces each time I explained patiently that I was trying to support small, locally owned business was even more surprising for me than them. Finally, someone said the magic words: “Would you like us to order one for you? We will call you when it comes in.”
The Camellia House Bed & Breakfast’s “And Now For Something Completely Local….” is the anti-dote to this phenomenon. It is the commitment to promote other small businesses. From a tourism standpoint, this only makes sense.
We should ask ourselves: “When was the last time we went on vacation to visit K-mart?” Most people want to eat at quaint restaurants, shop in cute boutiques and take in the sights.
How important are bed and breakfasts to our economic picture as a community? I asked Kim Hufham, president/CEO of the Wilmington/Cape Fear Coast CVB. “It’s important for a travel destination to offer a variety of overnight accommodations. Of the 7,880 rooms in New Hanover County, approximately 1 percent belong to independently owned bed and breakfast inns and another 20 percent represent real-estate rentals. These smaller properties help fill an important niche for travelers who seek more intimate accommodations. In addition, our destination also has several independently owned hotels, motels and small inns that contribute to the local tourism economy.”
Our economy is not an isolated idea that is driven by only one factor (i.e. one factory or a coal mine). Tourism is a major piece of the pie and has fingers extending in all directions: film, Civil and Revolutionary wars, the beach, the river, the Battleship and more.
Live Local will not be hitting the road this year for a trip, but hopefully readers will. I ask: Please, stop at a bed and breakfast, and eat at mom-and-pop restaurants. Besides the economic benefits for the community you are visiting, the people you meet and the experiences you will have will be worth the effort.