Spencer, NC (WBTV) - From the NCTM: The N.C. Transportation Museum had its most successful year ever in 2017, with record breaking overall visitation, record breaking numbers for the museum's largest events, and the opening of the massive Back Shop as an exhibit space. Calculated together, these successes have resulted in an economic impact for Rowan County that exceeds $18 million.
With more than 143,000 attendees in 2017, museum visitation increased 31% from the year before. Rowan County Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) calculations show the museum contributed an $18.3 million economic impact in Rowan County. Accounting for tourism dollars across Rowan, the N.C. Transportation Museum represents 11% of the county's $166 million tourism industry.
"The Museum is one of the most integral components of Rowan County's tourism economy," according to James Meacham, Chief Executive Officer of the Rowan CVB. "The site continues to drive new visitation and foster economic activity in the community. It is a great asset and a true Rowan County original."
Economic impact is calculated from numerous factors, including event ticket sales, visitor spending, meals at local restaurants, gasoline fill ups, shopping, and, in particular, overnight stays in hotels and other lodging facilities.
For several years, the museum has partnered with the Rowan County CVB to provide incentives for those wishing to stay in the county overnight. Incentives have included free event tickets, apparel, downtown dollars, and discounts in the museum's gift shop. Hotels and other lodging facilities in Rowan County have certainly felt the positive impact.
"The Transportation Museum is one of our top revenue generators for weekend business," said Krista Osterweil, manager of the Salisbury, NC Hilton hotel. "Their partnership with the local CVB has been instrumental in creating opportunities for guests of our county to become guests of our hotels."
THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride was a driving force for a record breaking 2017, attracting than 52,300 visitors during the 20-night event. When calculated separately, the event resulted in a $6.6 million economic impact for the county.
N.C. Transportation Museum Executive Director Kelly Alexander said the growth of the event has been driven by satisfied visitors. "We've worked hard to create an event that makes memories for the whole family and keeps them coming back each year." she said. "That, of course, results in even more interest as visitors talk about THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride to their friends and on social media."
Other events, new exhibit spaces, and great donations also contributed to a banner year in 2017. The museum saw its highest ever paid visitation during Day Out With Thomas™ and hosted more than 5000 people for the annual Fire Truck Festival. Day to day visitation was boosted by the opening of the Back Shop, which opened up 90,000 feet of exhibit space. This allowed the museum to show off even more of its auto collection, including five newly donated vehicles from the 1930s, including a 1935 Packard Super Eight and a 1933 Rolls Royce 20/25.
Tickets sales from events and day to day visitation keep the N.C. Transportation Museum operating, with just 11% of the site's funding coming from state appropriations. According to Executive Director Kelly Alexander, "We couldn't have a year like this without an extraordinary effort from our employees, our partners, and the museum's amazing army of talented volunteers." Volunteers at the museum contributed 31,000 work hours in 2017.