ROWLAND — Robeson County got the chance Friday to tout its tourist destinations to travelers stopping at the N.C.Welcome Center on northbound Interstate 95.
To mark National Travel and Tourism Week — which has been celebrated nationally the first full week of May since 1984 — exhibitors from Robeson and surrounding counties were on hand at the center to greet travelers and introduce them to the attractions throughout the area. Among the participants were representatives from the Lumberton Area Visitors Bureau; town of Fairmont; Robeson County History Museum; Lumber River State Park; Halifax County; Wilmington and Fayetteville. Music was provided by the Holden Beach-based Bluegrass Misfits Band, which included member Jim Caulder, a resident of Lumberton.
“Everybody celebrates this week differently,” said Mickey Gregory, executive director of the Lumberton Area Visitors Bureau. “We’re here today to greet travelers and encourage them to stop in Lumberton.”
Gregory said that tourism plays an important role in Robeson County’s economy, as well as being a major force driving North Carolina’s economy.
“Tourism in Robeson County generated approximately $117 million in 2010,” Gregory said. “Over 1,000 people in the county are employed in tourist-related businesses.”
Stephen and Joyce Toth, of Union, N.J., said that they plan to stop and stay overnight in Lumberton on their next trip to the area. On Friday they were heading home to New Jersey.
“This is a nice get together,” said Stephen as he accepted some information about Lumberton and two coupons for $10 off a room in a Lumberton hotel. “We usually stay in Lumberton when we are heading south, but I didn’t know we could save on our hotel.”
“Tourism is a shining light for the state,” said Kat Little Turtle, manager of the center. “In 2010, tourism generated over $17 billion for the state.”
As the “first face of North Carolina” that tourists traveling north on I-95 see after entering the state from South Carolina, the welcome center is busy all year, said Little Turtle. She said that in April there were 143,117 vehicles, including both cars and trucks, that passed through the center. During the same period there were 21,010 people, excluding those just using restrooms, that came into the center seeking information.
For travelers like Barbara and Paul Potto of Westhampton Beach, N.Y., and Wellington, Fla., the stop at the center was an enjoyable way to break up their 1,300- mile drive to New York. Both said they enjoyed the exhibits, food and music they unexpectedly found when they stopped to rest at the center.
“This is good public relations and a good way for marketing the area,” Barbara Potto said. “It introduces travelers to the area where they have stopped.”
Paul Potto agreed.
“This is a good diversion for folks like us who have been in the car for hours,” he said.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.