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Forum focuses on region's tourism industry

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Whether they come by plane, train or automobile, One thing for sure is county officials want people to come to our area. Wednesday night tourism gurus brainstormed ways to keep people coming back to Southeastern North Carolina.

When it comes to Coastal Carolina and beach towns, tourism is what comes to mind. Whether the locals like the tourists or not, it keeps bringing the cash in.

"When you're dealing with teeny-tiny budgets, comparatively speaking you do have to get the best bang for your buck," Pender County Tourism Director Monique Baker said.

But on a limited budget local counties need to find ways to keep people coming back. One way is to promote and market the major attractions. In our area those are the beaches, golfing and fishing.

"Our budget is $1.5 million, so Charleston can do more niche marketing, more specific marketing on those types of things, but it makes it a little harder for us to do that," said Kim Hufham of the Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The Cape Fear region seems to be doing well with the funds it has. Out of the top 20 attractions in the entire state of North Carolina, our area claims three of those spots thanks to the Battleship North Carolina, the NC Aquarium and Fort Fisher.

Although many of the panelists would like to spend more money on promoting history in our area, they say they have to stick to the basics to get people here first. Then they can promote the special nooks and crannies that make our area so desirable and special.

"In government and these types of situations you look to get as much as you can out of your dollar, and I think these guys have done a good job of doing that," Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said.

Saffo said historic Downtown Wilmington and the beaches are the leading drivers of business in our area. He said the best plan to keep tourism alive is to market on those two aspects, get people here and then expand on the other things the Cape Fear region has to offer.

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