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Economic impact study shows strength of heritage tourism in WNC

Article Published: May. 29 | Modified: May. 29

An economic impact study commissioned by the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership showed that heritage tourism contributes $2.39 billion to the economy of Western North Carolina, supporting more than 30,000 jobs and generating $176.5 million in state and local tax revenue.

“Heritage tourism supports the sustainability of our region’s parks, forests, waterways, historic sites and cultural traditions,” said Angie Chandler, executive director of the BRNHA Partnership. “The study shows the preservation and continued support of these natural and cultural assets are vital to the economies of 25 counties within North Carolina’s mountains and foothills region.”

The 20 sites and events that were selected to be part of this study reflect the geographic diversity of the region, have reliable annual visitor counts and represent the five heritage legacies of BRNHA — agriculture, Cherokee heritage, craft, traditional music and natural heritage.

Participating partner organizations included Asheville Art Museum, Biltmore Estate, Blue Ridge Parkway, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park, Cradle of Forestry, Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, Grandfather Mountain, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, John C. Campbell Folk School, MerleFest, Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, Nantahala Outdoor Center, North Carolina Arboretum, Oconaluftee Indian Village, Penland School of Crafts, Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center, Tweetsie Railroad, Unto These Hills Outdoor Drama and Wilkes Heritage Museum.

Conducted by David Primm of Primm Research in Pittsburgh, Pa., the study and analysis followed methodologies used in economic impact studies for National Park Service entities and other National Heritage Areas. Data collection was coordinated and managed by Chris Cavanaugh of Magellan Strategy Group in Asheville.

The full report is available online at

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, designated by Congress and the President in November 2003, works to protect, preserve, interpret and develop the unique natural, historical and cultural resources of Western North Carolina for the benefit of present and future generations, and in so doing to stimulate improved economic opportunity in the region.

National Heritage Areas are locally governed institutions that encourage residents, non-profit groups, government agencies and private partners to work together in planning and implementing programs that preserve and celebrate America’s defining landscapes.

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