RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. — Attractions like pottery in Seagrove, the Petty Museum and, of course, the North Carolina Zoo lure millions of visitors to Randolph County. To keep up with projections of more visitors stopping in the county, hotels are stepping up their game.
Shawn Patel's family owns several hotels in Randolph County. At one location, the pool has a new look. At another property, about 40 rooms were remodeled.
"We are here to provide the customer with a great sleeping experience," said Patel. "The only way to do that is by providing an updated experience."
Tourism is big business in Randolph County. In 2018, visitors spent $154 million in the county. So, not only are the Patels renovating rooms in order to remain competitive. They are building another hotel that will cater to families that are trying to save money while traveling.
"When you have to put out money for food and gas, you want to be budget-conscious," Patel explained. "People want to continue to travel, and you won't be able to do that if spending a lot of money to take a weekend trip."
Tammy O'Kelley is the chief executive officer for Randolph County Tourism. She said the Patels are not the only group looking to bring more hotels to Randolph County.
"I've had the most contacts in the past 12 to 14 months from potential investors than I've had since I've been here. And I've been here for 18 years," added O'Kelley.
With nearly 1 million visitors, the North Carolina Zoo is the main attraction for the county. O'Kelley believes the zoo's Asia continent expansion will push the zoo over the million-visitor mark. Also, new highway development will make it easier for tourists to travel to the zoo and visit other places in Randolph County. More visitors mean more hotel rooms and more money spent in the county. O'Kelley pointed out tourist money benefits people who call Randolph County home.
"It reduces their tax burden," O'Kelley said. "Plus it gives their friends and family something to do when they come in. We have folks relocate to Randolph County and North Carolina."
According to the Randolph County Tourism Development Authority, on average, visitor spending saves each Randolph County household about $300 a year.