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Visitation Growth in Durham, NC Surges Past National Average

Annual Visitation Numbers Released as Planned Leadership Transition Takes Effect at Discover Durham

(DURHAM, NC) July 10, 2019 – Discover Durham reports that 12.2 million visitors came to Durham, NC in 2018, an increase of 3.4 percent over 2017. Per an annual study conducted by Longwoods International, a research firm specializing in travel and tourism data, the year-over-year growth surpassed the national average by nearly 80%; the US tourism market grew by 1.9 percent over the same period. Discover Durham, chartered by state legislation as the tourism development authority for Durham County, releases the report at the start of its fiscal year as Susan Amey, president and CEO, was newly installed in the top leadership position.

“The survey confirms what we know to be true here: Durham’s vibrancy, strong economy, and the continuing introductions of so many small businesses, restaurants, entertainment options and venues have brought national attention to Durham,” said Amey. “That attention translates to more visitors, and visitor spending in Durham annually tops $800 million. That helps fuel economic progress and drives local business. It’s a fabulous time to lead the marketing of Durham, because we have so many appealing features to point visitors, journalists, and event and meeting planners to.”

Of the 12.2 million visitors, most traveled to Durham from North Carolina, Virginia, New York, New Jersey and South Carolina, and stayed for an average of 2.5 nights. While in Durham, the most popular activities reported by visitors were shopping, fine dining and visiting museums. Visitation data, collected through quarterly online surveys of nationally representative adults, includes both overnight and day visitors to Durham county, excluding those who only commute here for work or school. Other findings from the report can be found in this executive summary. A separate report calculating the economic impact of visitation to Durham will be released later this year.

Susan Amey recently assumed the role of president and CEO from Shelly Green, who held the post from 2009 through June 30, 2019. Green will serve as Discover Durham’s past president until she officially retires in September.

“While numbers and growth are exciting, we are also very pleased with Discover Durham’s expanding role in the city’s progress, particularly as we transition leadership from Shelly Green to Susan Amey,” said Lois Deloatch, executive vice president of Self Help and newly appointed board chair of the Tourism Development Authority. “Shelly has been an enormously effective advocate for Durham for nearly two decades, and she has been crucial in building and guiding this organization. It has been invaluable for Shelly to mentor Susan over the last two years. Susan has made an impact already, and we look forward to working with her to continue momentum and progress."

Amey was selected by the board as the organization’s next president and CEO in April 2018. She joined Discover Durham as chief marketing officer in 2016 and has since led an expansion of the organization’s out-of-market, multi-channel promotional campaigns; oversaw production of an award-winning “Welcome to Durham” video and virtual 360 degree tour of Durham to enhance visitor experience; and led orchestration of the organization’s rebranding work in 2018 which included a name change from Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau to Discover Durham. She has been heavily involved in the oversight committee planning and executing Durham 150, the official commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the City of Durham this year.

Green served nearly 20 years at Discover Durham, first as executive vice president of marketing, then chief operating officer, before being tapped as president and CEO. Green has served on the boards of Destinations International, the trade association for destination marketing organizations worldwide, and Destination Marketing Association of North Carolina, and chaired Destination International’s Destination Management Accreditation Program for two years. She announced her pending retirement more than four years ago, which with the support of Discover Durham’s board, led to a thorough succession plan about which Green has delivered talks at national conferences.

About Discover Durham:
Discover Durham tells Durham, North Carolina’s story to attract visitors and drive economic progress. As Durham’s official tourism marketing and sales agency, it promotes the strategic economic and cultural development of Durham as a visitor destination. Discover Durham markets the community to millions of people each year, helping new and returning guests get off the beaten path and experience something new. Discover Durham also operates the Durham Sports Commission under an interlocal agreement with the city of Durham and Durham County governments. Discover Durham’s work helps fuel sales at local businesses, creates jobs, generates tax revenues, and enhances quality of life for locals. For more information about Durham, visit www.discoverdurham.com, or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Media Contact:

Margaret Pentrack