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Overnight tourism spending strong in Haywood

The Haywood tourism industry is on a winning streak.

Tourism spending on overnight accommodations was up 10 percent the last half of 2014 compared to the same period the year before.

It marks the third straight year of gains in tourism spending on overnight stays, but is the biggest leap so far. Tourism spending peaked in 2008 and entered a period of post-recession decline, before starting to rebound in 2012. It has been increasing steadily ever since and has now surpassed the pre-recession levels. 

Ironically, the loss of four hotels and motels in Maggie the previous year may actually be helping the numbers, according to Lynn Collins, director of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority.

The demand for hotel rooms has grown, but supply has shrunk, allowing those still in the business to raise their rates some, and in turn helped boost overall spending on overnight stays.

“We’ve lost some properties in the county but that has not necessarily been a bad thing because it has driven business to other properties that have been able to raise their rates a little bit and then put that money back into upgrading their properties,” Collins explained.

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The spate of motel closings in Maggie is due to a variety of factors: one burned down, another closed when the owners died, and owners of the other two moved away or simply exited the industry.

Collins said the outlook remains strong for the tourism industry this year.

 “They expect the upswing to continue,” Collins said. “The biggest problem they anticipate now is workforce. They already have some problems finding folks to work.”

— By Becky Johnson, Staff writer

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