2021 Annual Report | Visit Elizabeth City

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2021 ANNUAL REPORT Published April 22, 2022

TABLE OF CONTENTS 1 Message from Leadership 3 Who is Visit Elizabeth City? 4 Mission & Strategic Priorities 5 Accreditation 6 Destination Development 7 AAENENC 8 Coast Guard Marathon 9 Advertising Campaigns 11 New Logos 12 Public Relations 13 Website Analytics 15 Social Media 16 Value of Tourism 17 Occupancy Taxes 18 Finance Highlights 19 Looking Ahead 20 Staff & Board 2021 Annual Report January - December 2021

Message From Leadership Like many in the tourism industry, Visit Elizabeth City began 2021 envisioning the end of COVID and a return to all things normal in travel. Excited to build on the learnings and successes from 2020, we initiated efforts for new and significant destination marketing programs early in 2021. Nimble was the name of the game for advertising as we worked around waves of COVID surges, the impact that had on consumer sentiment and the continued cancellation of significant destination 2021 events including TarWheel Cycling Event, Potato Festival, Love Your River, and performances at Arts of the Albemarle; these cancellations along with the switch to a virtual-only Coast Guard Marathon, virtual-only events at ECSU, etc. made for a year full of adaptation. On the heels of COVID our community was dealt a second crisis. On April 21, the policeinvolved death of Andrew Brown Jr. thrust us into the national media spotlight overnight. Peaceful protesters took to the streets daily followed by hordes of journalists capturing every moment and announcement as the case progressed, keeping the name “Elizabeth City” top-of-mind for all the wrong reasons. These back-to-back crises created an even greater need to adapt and the team leaned into the constant state of change, finding ways to innovate, collaborate and lead all while delivering results. We shifted our focus from traditional DMO marketing projects to seeking opportunities for tourism to be a leader and help in the healing process in our community. In June, the Board adopted a budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year including funding for crisis communications assistance, to update our 2019 strategic plan, and most significantly, to seek and engage a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert to work with us, ensuring all feel welcome in Elizabeth City and the muffled voices of our community are heard loud and clear. None of those items were on our agenda the first few months of 2021, completely redirecting the strategic mission of Visit Elizabeth City for the balance of 2021 and beyond. Despite navigating a year unlike any other, we are extremely proud of our 2021 accomplishments. A few to highlight: • From January to March 2021, we hosted the incredibly successful execution of the first-ever, virtual, Coast Guard Marathon, the first and only USCG-sanctioned road race. Bringing the event and brand to over 11,238 participants from 4 continents, raised awareness of Elizabeth City around the world and provided a solid foundation for future in-person events. • Building on the proven success of working with an award-winning PR agency, we launched a national search to secure agency partners for Public Relations and Digital Advertising. After an overwhelming response of 27 RFPs, we selected MMGY NJF as our PR Agency and Evok as our Digital Advertising agency. We are thrilled to have such strong industry partners, further putting Elizabeth City on the map as a travel destination. Page 1

Visit Elizabeth City is now recognized as a top-tier Destination Marketing Organization as evidenced by our May 2021 completion of the exhaustive requirements to earn Destination Marketing Accreditation Certification. We join an exclusive group of as one of only 185 destinations in the world to be DMAP certified!

Visitors and locals can now navigate their way through the County and City using our new wayfinding signs highlighting important destinations and attractions in our destination. This destination development project was a result of a collaborative effort leading to the plan, design, build and installation of 51 gorgeous wayfinding signs throughout the City & County and a stunning new visitor information kiosk beautifying our downtown waterfront area.

• Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a nationally recognized important issue, and also an important issue here in Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County. After a nationwide search for a DEI partner, we engaged with Melissa Majors Consulting. Our work with her continues into 2022, but we have a strong foundation from implementing community research and hosting an in-depth collaborative session with tourism stakeholders brainstorming a path forward By working together, we were able to weather the most severe crises our community has ever seen, but we’re not finished. As we look to the future, Visit Elizabeth City will continue to find new ways to rebuild our tourism economy to ensure it is more resilient, sustainable, equitable and inclusive for our residents and our visitors, truly encapsulating the nickname “Harbor of Hospitality®”.

Abel Sutton, Chair of the Board Corrina Ruffieux, Executive Director

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Who is Visit Elizabeth City?

The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) is a North Carolina Public Authority under the Local Government Budget and Fiscal Control Act. The official name of the Authority is the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Tourism Development Authority doing business as Visit Elizabeth City. A North Carolina TDA is also known as a region’s Destination Management Organization.

What is a DMO?

As a Destination Management Organization (DMO), Visit Elizabeth City plays an essential role in managing tourism at the local level to help attract tourists and support businesses within Pasquotank County. We’re responsible for promoting the City & County through branding campaigns, media relations and high-quality product development through effective communication with stakeholders, all while ensuring strong ROI for money spent on projects that meet our overall objectives. In addition to our daily efforts to bring more visitors to the destination, Visit Elizabeth City also works to make our travel economy more sustainable and enjoyable for visitors for years to come.

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Our Mission and Vision

The mission of the TDA is to promote overnight visitation that drives economic impact through destination marketing and enhancement of the visitor experience in Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County. Through innovative destination marketing, our vision is to become a nationallyrecognized, model historic riverfront destination that drives significant economic impact for Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County and welcomes visitors with world class hospitality and experiences.

Strategic Priorities • • • • •

Support tourism-related product development Create a community culture for the support of tourism Execute intentional and intelligent destination marketing Build organizational capability, resources and professionalism Enhance the impact of current destination investments

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For two and a half years, Visit Elizabeth City staff and board members worked to update and modernize our organization’s policies, procedures, and programs, leveling them up to meet rigorous standards as part of the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP). 119 different documents created covering topics including: • • • • • •

Governance Finance Transparency Human Resources Marketing Communications

• • • • • •

Research Partner Outreach Technology Business Operations Customer Service Advocacy

DMAP is an independent global accreditation body and the leader in defining quality and performance standards in destination management. In May 2021, Visit Elizabeth City joined the ranks of only 185 fellow global organizations, attaining a significant measure of excellence as a top DMO.

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Destination Development

In partnership with the City, County, ECDI, Chamber, and Economic Development, we engaged a wayfinding consultant to conduct research, write a plan and design our signs and ultimately engaged a firm to manufacture and install 51 different signs and a beautiful new Visitor Information Kiosk. The signage directs visitors and locals to points of interest around the City & County and points out the allimportant public parking.

This collaborative project will continue to play a major role in beautification of our community and provide ongoing business support and economic impact for years to come.




$120,000 Visit Elizabeth City $75,000 City of Elizabeth City $75,000 Pasquotank county $20,000 Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc. $5,000 Committee of 100

Elizabeth Street HWY 158

E. Colonial Avenue

Water Street

S. Poindexter St.

McMorrine St.

E. Fearing Street

Moth Boat Park

Mariners Wharf


E. Church Street

S. Pool St.

modernized downtown map

Pool St Park

S. Elliot St.

S. Road Street


E. Main Street Police/Fire Department

Ives Alley

US District Court

Fowler Alley

MLK Jr. Blvd.

County Courthouse

Pailin’s Alley

Twiford’s Veterans Memorial

Pasquotank River

Waterfront Park t E. Grice Stree


et tre sS

Public boat ramp




Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery

ve. nA ther


Public boat ramp

Museum of the Albemarle & Welcome Center

Chamber of Commerce



Veterans Park

Public Library

N. Pool St.


Weatherly Historic Landmark

Coast Guard Park

e Avenu rside Rive

Dog Corner Park

Charles Creek Park




MAP Waters Edge Boutique

Premier Visions Hair Studio

Big Boss Burritos

Albemarle Floral

The Framery

River City Chiropractic

Coasters Downtown Draught House

All Around Diva (inside Albemarle Floral)

Harbor Pharmacy

Rock, Paper, Scissors Hair Salon

Colonial Café of Elizabeth City

Arts of the Albemarle – Gallery and Gifts

Jade Whale Co.

Sammy’s Barber Shop

A Little Bit of Everything

Shear Perfection

Cypress Creek Grill

Bijoux Vibes

Elizabeth City Pizza Co.

Coastal Office Equipment & Computers

The Market on Water Street

Cozy Carolina Boutique


Ghost Harbor Brewing Company

Crank’s Shoe Repair

Bella Vita Salon

Groupers Waterfront Restaurant

Downtown DTG

Custom Hairlines

Hoppin’ Johnz New South Cuisine

Eclectic Jewelry & Design

Dockside Esthetics Elizabeth City

Island Breeze Grill

Elizabeth City Sewing Center

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Senior Center

Muddy Waters Coffeehouse

Elizabeth City Trophy

Glimmer Beauty Lounge

Arts of the Albemarle – Cultural Arts Center

Paradiso Roma Ristorante

Ehringhaus Smoke Shop

Quality Seafood Restaurant & Market

Hands On Health Massage & Bodywork (Inside True Images)

Kinderdance by Zaribel

Glass Music

The Mills Downtown Bistro

Holley-Fonville Photography & Greek

The SweetEasy Bakery & Coffee

In Stitches Embroidery & Gift Shop

Tooley’s Tavern at the Narrows*

Small Town Trendz

Toyama Japanese Restaurant

Lazzy Frog

2 Souls Wine Bar

Museum Gift Shop

Seven Sounds Brewing Company & Event Space

Page After Page Bookstore

The Steel Door Cocktail Bar*

Pine & Porch

*Coming Soon


Harbour Hair Studio

Skin Goals Local The Fitness Warehouse True Images Salon Willow Tree Medicine


Meraki Academy of Dance

iKandy Braids, Weave, Natural Hair & Locs

Museum of the Albemarle

Keystone Barber Shop

Pasquotank County Library

Keystone Barber Shop

Port Discover Science Center

Mad House Dance & Fitness

Red Rabbit Art Gallery

Nailed It

Studio 511 Art & Clay Space

Nestlerode Orthopedic Rehabilitation

The Lula Gals

No Limit Fitness Sports Performance & Training Center

Sanctuary Design Co.

Phyllis’ Creations

The She Shed (inside Zaribel’s)

Last Updated October 6, 2021

NCBLACKHERITAGETOUR.COM This self-guided, digital heritage trail was launched Juneteenth, 2021 and includes outdoor interpretive signs and monuments, parks, waterways and museums. The trail is an ongoing collaborative project between six NC counties: • Camden • Chowan • Currituck

• Dare • Pasquotank • Perquimans

The African American Experience of NENC (AAENENC) celebrates the contributions of African Americans and encourages a deeper understanding of the significance of the region’s cultural heritage in order to build more inclusive communities. The AAENENC was awarded the Marketing Achievement Award at the 2021 NC Travel Industry Association Conference!

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2021 Coast Guard Marathon

The 2021 Coast Guard Run (now rebranded as Coast Guard Marathon,) including a Half Marathon and 5K, is a legacy event not only for Elizabeth City but the entire U.S. Coast Guard as the first and only sanctioned road race for the USCG. Delayed twice due to COVID-19 restrictions, we made the thoughtful and difficult decision to go virtual for 2021. Officially launching in January 2021, the virtual event was “held” on March 4. The 2021 virtual Coast Guard Run exceeded expectations with over 11,000 participants running with us from all 50 states and spanning 4 continents! Raising brand awareness for this new event and additionally putting Elizabeth City on the national map as a future place to visit sets the stage for continued growth to our destination, from the in-person 2022 CGM event to weekend getaways and more.





Participants From Countries & All 50 States including DC, Puerto Rico, Guam & the US Virgin Islands

<1Cities year old Oldest Participant: 89 years old Youngest Participant: Top 10

total Coast Guard Run emails sent

Top Top 10 10 States States

Elizabeth City


VA - Virginia




CA - California




FL - Florida


NC - North Carolina


TX - Texas


MD - Maryland


NY - New York



followers 86 in Washington

the first 4 months Arlington 85 Virginia Beach






NJ - New Jersey


San Antonio


MI - Michigan


New London


MA - Massachusetts 341

Our third year of Christmas in Elizabeth City, promoting the entire destination as an affordable, charming holiday experience, continues to provide a solid marketing platform for all our partner businesses and events. New for 2021 we launched the Hot Cocoa Crawl as an added holidaythemed thing to do for locals and visitors alike. Leveraging our social reach, consumer emails, earned media and digital advertising, Christmas in Elizabeth City is able to generate economic impact through themed, consistent promotions.

November - December Digital Campaign Totals Link clicks: 5,755 Cost Per Click: $0.76 Reach: 215,680 users Click Through Rate: 1.22% Impressions: 471,314

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Ongoing campaign with ads launched November 8, 2021

Objectives: • Market Elizabeth City as an affordable, riverfront wedding destination • Support local businesses in the wedding industry





Advertising in: • Our State Magazine • Google Ads • Facebook Ads

Summer Savings Pass Revamped campaign ran from Memorial Day - Labor Day


• Drive traffic to local businesses • Facilitate relationships with and educate partners • Support Our E-City as a community

Advertising in: • • • • • •

Our State Magazine Our State Emails Coastland Times Magazine CoastlandTimes.com Google Ads Facebook Ads









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New Logos

As part of our effort to ensure more consistent branding, we utilized our new Advertising partners, Evok Advertising, and created a new suite of logos to represent the various entities of Visit Elizabeth City. These new logos feature a similar layout, the same font, and a simplistic line art element that lends to our brand’s recognition when using any of the logos in various campaigns.

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Public Relations

In partnership with Visit Elizabeth City, our Public Relations partner MMGY NJF promoted interest in travel to Elizabeth City and generated destination awareness. From June - December 2021, MMGY NJF promoted interest in travel to Elizabeth City and generated destination awareness. Through a strategic media relations campaign and proactive news engine, the agency continued to establish Elizabeth City as North Carolina’s Harbor of Hospitality®, garner coverage in targeted national and regional publications and, enhance business relationships with local partners.






Hot Cocoa Crawl

What: Partners created signature hot chocolate drinks available during the holiday season. Why: Generate buzz for the Christmas season while featuring dining/ drinking venues. How: A press release was distributed to national and regional outlets supported by marketing efforts including paid social, PPC, and email.

News Bureau



MMGY NJF developed at least two pitches per month aligning Elizabeth City with major trends in travel, current events and holidays. Pitches included themes like Coast Guard Marathon, seasonal happenings, destination weddings, the local art scene, other tourism offerings and other agency-wide roundups.

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VisitElizabethCity.com WEBSITE ANALYTICS

Total Sessions

Page Views



54.61% increase YoY

176.12% increase YoY


YEAR OVER YEAR COMPARISON JAN. 1 - DEC. 31, 2021 TO JAN.1 - DEC. 31, 2020

67% of website visits were from a mobile device with 158,766 total mobile sessions.





SOURCE: GOOGLE ANALYTICS JAN. 1 - DEC. 31, 2020 & JAN. 1 - DEC. 31, 2021




Top 5 Pages Visited (not including the home page)

1. Events 2. Summer Savings Pass 3. Harbor Cam 4. What’s New in 2021 (blog) 5. Play

This blog featured exciting additions to E-City including new drinking establishments and events!

We increased year-over-year (YoY) traffic to VisitEizabethCity.com by 54.61% in the 2021 calendar year with a strong and consistent advertising campaign across a variety of channels. This success drove significant awareness of the region and showed an increased interest in returning to travel with the ease of restrictions. The “What’s New” blog is the first blog since 2018 to be one of our top 5 pages visited. The return to travel and overall excitement for new things to do in Elizabeth City generated lots of page views for this blog. Going forward we will prioritize seeking content for similar blogs that highlight new and exciting additions to our menu of experiences and things to do.



0 +5 % 7 +6



SOURCE: GOOGLE ANALYTICS JAN. 1 - DEC. 31, 2020 & JAN. 1 - DEC. 31, 2021

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2021 Social Media Results

Social media continues to be a large part of our overall marketing efforts. To reach our various audiences with targeted messages, we manage: a Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for Visit Elizabeth City’s travel and leisure audience, Facebook and Instagram for Coast Guard Marathon fans, and a Facebook page geared towards Elizabeth City business owners and community partners. Facebook






Visit Elizabeth City




1,054,814 246% YoY

263,863 +1.3K% YoY



43,857 +6.9% YoY

12,194 +1.4% YoY


Tourism Partners



4,868 +65% YoY YouTube




Coast Guard Marathon


@CoastGuard Marathon






16.7k 1,923% YoY







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242.9 HOURS +719% YoY

2020 Value of Tourism



-19.4% from a record-breaking 2019 due to the impact of COVID-19



Local Taxes

507 Jobs

$2.1M Tax Relief per Household

(as a result of taxes generated by tourism)


State Taxes $2.7M

Source: The Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties. This study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by Tourism Economics. 2021 data will be available fall, 2022.

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2021 Occupancy Taxes

Visit Elizabeth City is funded solely by occupancy tax collections – paid for by visitors who spend the night in one of our lodging properties, whether hotel, B&B or short-term rental. This 6% tax data is a reflection on both the overall health or our region’s economy and our efforts to drive new and increased visitation. 2020 is of course an anomaly compared to other years due to forced travel restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

$887,448 $743,158 $665,983 $588,012

Comparing our year-over-year collections by category, we note the significant majority of revenue comes via visitors staying in our hotel properties. However, it’s worth noting the steady YoY growth in the B&B and short-term rental market expanded significantly this year showing 194% growth from 2020 to 2021. This growth shows the importance of alternative accommodations to the destination, and attest to our visitors’ desires for more flexibility in lodging selections.

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Finance Highlights The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Tourism Development Authority (TDA), doing business as Visit Elizabeth City, is funded by a six-percent occupancy tax on lodging; meaning each time a visitor spends the night in a hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast, a portion of those taxes are allocated to the TDA. A portion of these taxes are set aside each year for the City and County to spend on tourism-related projects in the community at their discretion. In 2021 we saw funding from a few additional nonoccupancy tax sources (see chart for details). The remainder is used by the Visit Elizabeth City staff to develop and manage programs, marketing and media buys, destination development and more. As part of our effort to ensure financial transparency, the Board reviews finance statements monthly, and annually we are audited by a third-party firm authorized to audit North Carolina Local Government groups. All finance documents are available for review once adopted by the Board.

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Looking Ahead 2020 and 2021 will undoubtedly be years we will never forget. After what was essentially a twoyear pause in traditional destination management and marketing, we are beginning to ramp back up. Without a doubt, we will forever be changed - changed for the better. As we’ve learned from the past two years, we must remain smart, nimble and adaptable to the rapidly evolving world around us. Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County are primed for an incredible 2022. Events are finally coming back after a two year hiatus, providing even more reasons for visitors to come to our community. Starting with the first ever, in-person Coast Guard Marathon, Visit Elizabeth City will continue to work to tell the nation about our incredible destination and encourage visitation. We have a strong team in place and will leverage opportunities to learn and grow as professionals and together. With huge strides made in destination development, we can continue to build and improve with new opportunities for growth in tourism. Looking ahead to 2022, we currently recommend moving forward on the following important projects, subject to evolve as needed! • Prioritize our important diversity, equity and inclusion work with Melissa Majors Consulting and weave inclusion into everything we do. • Invest the time required to implement a full evaluation of the Tourism 2019 Strategic Plan; acknowledging accomplishments and making revisions to adapt and adopt a new, 2022 Strategic Plan. • Continue to build on and expand successful campaigns including Christmas in Elizabeth City, Weddings in Elizabeth City and “What’s New” content. • Leverage all available research in addition to the experience offered by the teams of our agency partners, capitalizing marketing campaigns for maximum return on investment. • Working in collaboration with the City, County and other community partners, consider additional destination development projects so we can continue to offer new and diverse experiences to visitors and locals.

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Staff and Board Directory The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Tourism Development Authority is composed of a board of directors that represent the hospitality industry, City and County partners and a four-person staff.

Board of Directors Abel Sutton Chair Hospitality Partner

Barry Overman Pasquotank County County Commissioner

Andy Montero Vice-Chair Hospitality Partner

Rhonda Twiddy Hospitality Partner

Gwen Sanders Immediate Past Chair Hospitality Partner Dean Schaan Treasurer Lodging Industry

Linea Johnson Lodging Industry Ashley Camaiore Lodging Industry Sheri Small Finance Officer, Ex-Officio

Johnnie Walton Elizabeth City City Councilor

Staff Corrina Ruffieux Executive Director

Breanna Brower Marketing and Communications Specialist

Susan Hartley Administrative Assistant

Tiffany Ly Events Specialist Carrie Barker Communications and Website Assistant Page 20

2021 Annual Report Published April 22, 2022

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