Wrightsville Beach, specifically Johnnie Mercer’s Fishing Pier, was chosen for the cover shot of the official 2012 travel guide for North Carolina. Lynn Minges, assistant secretary of tourism, marketing and global branding for the N.C. Department of Commerce, made the announcement at the pier to a crowd of government and hospitality-industry officials.
"This, like thousands of other places across our state, is a place where memories are made," Minges said. She explained that since 1939, families were coming to the public pier to fish and to watch the sunrise and sunset.
"This is a very special place… This is why we think this beautiful sunrise, set here at Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, is the perfect cover, to illustrate, to welcome millions of visitors to our state," Minges said.
The 174-page guide lists 800 attractions and 4,000 accommodations around the state, as well as featuring articles about the state’s heritage, restaurants that support sustainable agriculture, fish stories, crafts, family ties and more. The 600,000 copies cost $1.5 million to publish, but Minges said that cost was completely underwritten by travel-industry partners.
Minges said the state’s 38 million visitors spent $17 billion last year, supporting 200,000 jobs that couldn’t be outsourced. She thanked Rep. Susi Hamilton for being a strong supporter of the tourism industry.
In New Hanover County, tourism grew 7 percent last year, with visitors spending $400 million and employing 5,000 people. Minges added that the local growth was not by accident, with the county having one of the best Tourism Development Authorities in the state.
Kim Hufham, president and CEO of the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it was an exciting day for the entire destination. She recognized various attendees and thanked pier owner Matt Johnson, who had graciously agreed to host the press conference without knowing why.
Minges presented framed copies of the cover to Hufham, Hamilton and Johnson.
New Hanover County Commissioners Vice Chair Jonathan Barfield said after the press conference that it was great that the travel guide focused on Wrightsville Beach, and he hoped that it would bring even more tourists and put more people to work across the county.
"This is about jobs," he said.
Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti said the announcement was wonderful news and an honor that would help expose the beach to people who weren’t familiar with it, and would help the entire area.
"Wrightsville Beach is the gem of the East Coast," he said.
Minges explained that every year, it was a challenge to find the right cover image at the right time. Her office tried to rotate images from different regions of the state each year. The guides often show beaches, but this particular shot had an unusual perspective that beckoned the viewer to find out more.
It takes some searching through fine print to find where the cover shot site is identified on page 9 in the travel guide. However, the state’s travel and tourism website, www.visitnc.com, pairs an image of the guide with an announcement about a free sweepstakes to win a vacation package at Wrightsville Beach, including a three-night stay at a major hotel, surfing lessons, a cruise and a $500 gift card. The contest lasts through Jan. 31, 2012. Minges said she expected it to generate some 20,000 inquiries about the destination.
Copies of the guide will be distributed nationally and internationally. They can be picked up at any state welcome center, and ordered by calling 1-800-VISITNC or by visiting the state website, where the enhanced digital version also included embedded videos and an interactive map. The guide is also downloadable to iPads, and a mobile application is in the works.
This report was published on www.LuminaNews.com on Friday, Dec. 16.