People don’t often think of Raleigh as a tourist destination. We aren’t on the beach, we don’t have a ski resort and none of the Seven Wonders of the World is within our city limits (although we haven’t designed Dix Park yet).
So would you believe that Raleigh rolled out the red carpet for 14.3 million domestic travelers last year? According to the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, visitors pumped $2.2 billion into our economy in 2014. That’s $2.2 billion toward creating jobs, building schools and growing our economy.
Much of the influx of visitors is due to smart public investments. We have modernized our airport, built a first-class convention center and fostered a business climate that attracts business travelers. We also have great venues, sports arenas and museums that bring visitors here for concerts, basketball tournaments and art exhibitions. Events like the Hopscotch Music Festival, the International Bluegrass Music Association, SPARKcon, the NHL All-Star Game and the NCAA tournament bring people and their money here from all over the world. When Raleigh’s Southern hospitality is on display, from both the city and its citizens, these events and their patrons will keep coming back.
So when people question the wisdom of using public dollars on upgrading our transportation infrastructure, building a convention center or expanding our cultural offerings, remind them that these investments pay off. In fact, the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau reports that if it were not for the tax revenues generated from visitors, each Wake County household would have to pay over $627 more in taxes to get the same level of service.
I want to keep making the kinds of smart public investments that keep visitors - and their wallets - coming back. It makes the city more attractive to tourists, it makes life better for residents and it might just save us some money, too.