Visit North Carolina and Airbnb announced the launch of a new, year-long partnership to promote travel to 16 rural counties with a focus on local attractions, unique stays and charming experiences that highlight everything rural counties and small towns in the Tar Heel state have to offer. The ‘Dream Big in Small Town NC’ campaign, funded by the General Assembly as the part of North Carolina’s new Rural Tourism Recovery Pilot Program, is led by Visit North Carolina and Airbnb, in coordination with the North Carolina Department of Commerce, to support the state’s post-pandemic recovery and the many unique local shops, restaurants and workers who rely on the local tourism industry.
“Dream Big allows us to extend our economic development role as the state’s tourism marketing organization,” said Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell. “Our efforts center on showcasing local landmarks, memorable experiences, distinctive lodging, dining and shopping with the goal of an economic infusion from visitor spending. Airbnb’s partnership in the program will help us go further by reaching more travelers, who will discover the authentic nature of our small towns and awaken to the possibility of extended stays.”
The collaborative campaign will promote 16 rural counties in three distinct regions over the coming months, starting with spring in the mountains: Graham, Haywood, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey counties. Each region will be promoted to potential travelers with:
- A satellite media tour, targeted social media ads, an influencer program, and email campaign to Airbnb guests in target markets across the country;
- An illustrated and interactive map hosted on a ‘Dream Page’ section of the Airbnb website featuring a curated list of nearby stays, experiences, and local businesses to help travelers discover North Carolina’s charming towns, rich history and hidden gems, and inspiring Airbnb Host stories; and
- Sweepstakes to win a trip to visit the region, including an Airbnb gift card.
Following spring in the scenic mountains, the campaign will spotlight Central and Northeast and the inner banks of North Carolina, including Halifax County, home to Sylvan Heights Bird Park and the world’s largest collection of rare and endangered waterfowl; Kerr Lake, a 50,000-acre reservoir and idyllic paradise for those who love fishing, camping, boating and sailing, and nature trails; and Chowan County, which offers a wealth of historic sites and well-preserved architecture, a delightful surprise on top of its charismatic small town charm.
“The partnership between Visit North Carolina and Airbnb is a creative way to inspire people to discover off-the-beaten-path, rural areas that otherwise may not be front of mind, but that have so much to offer to those looking for a new vacation destination or a new home”, said Viviana Jordan, Regional Public Policy Lead for Airbnb. “This campaign will tap into the growing interest we’re seeing in rural tourism, with domestic nights booked in North Carolina, more than doubling since 2019, and will showcase the restaurants, shops, and attractions that make these rural communities unique and vibrant destinations. We are excited for visitors to ‘Dream Big’ in rural North Carolina and spread the benefits of tourism to the beautiful places there are to explore in these counties.”
The partnership is part of Airbnb’s work with destination marketing organizations and local governments to support local economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, Airbnb has launched more than 140 partnerships across nearly three dozen countries, including nearly 40 in the US and Canada, to bolster the benefits of travel for residents and small businesses.
The economic benefits of spreading tourism to rural areas
Since our founding, the Airbnb platform has helped communities use existing space to scale accommodations and absorb influxes of visitors, all while creating important economic opportunities for Hosts and local small businesses. In 2021, domestic nights booked by US guests on Airbnb for stays in rural areas in North Carolina grew nearly 130 percent, compared to 2019. In addition, with remote working providing more flexibility for many Americans, more people are turning to Airbnb to book longer stays: nights booked on Airbnb in 2021 for stays of a week or more in rural North Carolina grew over 180 percent, compared to 2019 – with nights booked for stays of 28+ nights growing over 160 percent, compared to 2019.
Tourism taxes are also key revenue-generating mechanisms for jurisdictions across the country. In recent years, these taxes have become even more important as cities and towns have looked to not only recover from the financial impact of the pandemic, but also embrace the opportunity of a fundamental shift in travel that has brought guests to thousands more communities around the world. In North Carolina, Airbnb collected and remitted over $90 million last year, an increase of approximately 135 percent over 2019.
To support local residents in embracing the economic opportunities created by the spread of rural tourism and Hosting, Airbnb is launching its Airbnb Entrepreneurship Academy – a flexible and interactive education program focused on introducing communities to hosting – in North Carolina. The first sessions will be offered May 2 and 9 through Beaufort County Community College, whose service area includes Tyrrell and Washington counties, and includes two free, four-hour online workshops on exploring tourism entrepreneurship with top tips on hosting a space through Airbnb to earn extra income, with the option to connect with an experienced Superhost Ambassador. Additionally, there will be another Airbnb Entrepreneurship Academy for those interested in hosting across rural North Carolina in June. Last year, the Airbnb Entrepreneurship Academy worked with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) to design and run an Academy for EBCI community members in rural North Carolina.