Enjoying A Pandemic "Staycation"
States across the country, including North Carolina, are working overtime to recoup tourism dollars lost during the pandemic. In North Carolina, in-state visitors are making up some of that loss.
Wit Tuttell is the Executive Director of Visit NC, North Carolina’s tourism office. Tourism is a $29 billion industry in the state. But it dropped to $19 billion in 2020. At the same time, Tuttell said in-state visitor traffic was at an all-time high.
“In a typical year about 30% to 40% of the visitors to North Carolina are in-state residents,” said Tuttell. “What we saw almost immediately in the pandemic, was that number had shifted to above 60%, for the first time ever.”
Tuttell said they realized very quickly, people were willing to leave home for short, quick getaways, often called "staycations." He said it was time to let locals know the state was open and they could visit their favorite places again. They just had to follow COVID safety rules.
“We’re open for business, but we’re all in this. It takes each one of us, so your help will be a plus. Traveling, shopping, ordering a panini. Well, you can count on me NC,” are the words to a jingle in a Visit NC marketing video.
State tourism numbers also show in-state visitors preferred a rural “staycation” over urban trips, to avoid crowds. But sometimes rural area became crowded, according to Tuttell.
“If everybody goes to that same spot out in the mountains or that same spot on the beach it’s no longer uncrowded, almost becoming an urban area,” said Tuttell. “So we’re really focused on getting people to spread out across the state.”
Tuttell recommended traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“The nice thing about that for us, there are 25 counties in which it goes through. So, people could go to different spots all along,” he said
A Funeral, A Museum Visit
Hundreds of people travelled to Tallahassee, Florida, last month to say farewell to the late Frederick Humphries. Humphries was a former president of Florida A&M University, a historically Black university founded in 1887.
There was a public viewing for Humphries, on the FAMU campus – a wake and a memorial service. The popular university president served the institution during what many call its “golden years.” In the 1980s and 90s student enrollment more than doubled.
Darius Young is a professor of history at FAMU and the interim director of the school’s Meek-Eaton Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum. Young said the Black Archives had been closed for most of the pandemic, but when word came of Humphries’ death, they had to honor him with an exhibit. And people came, wearing masks.
“People who haven’t been here in years made it back to FAMU during that week,” said Young. “You could see them reminiscing and having conversations and really running into old friends and classmates. So it was really something to see.”
On Fridays, the Black Archives is open to prospective students and families. Ivy Taylor, the president of Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, visited the Humphries exhibit last week.
"This definitely is something that we find fascinating," said Taylor, who was on a college visit with her daughter. 'As president of another HBCU, just really interested in efforts to preserve the history and understand the challenges that our forefathers faced in trying to get an education."
A "staycation" many of us will remember for a long time.