Wading into Tourist Season
Battlegrounds, beaches, turtles, oh my! Pender County may not be Oz, but TAMMY PROCTOR certainly is a wiz when it comes to the area’s tourism.
“We have the best of both worlds from beaches to history,” she says. “We are open. Come on back!”
After the region took a hit from Hurricane Florence last September, Proctor is careful of how to word openings of venues, to avoid implying that others are closed; instead, she focuses on promoting the wide range of events taking place around the county.
“After twenty-three years in journalism, I know that words are important,” Proctor explains. “We are coming back better and stronger than ever.”
In 2011, Proctor left her newspaper career in northeast Ohio, so that she and her husband could relocate to Pender County and be closer to their daughter and grandchildren. Proctor worked with the Greater Topsail Area Chamber of Commerce for two years before moving into her current tourism director position. Proctor also serves as the county’s spokeswoman.
“I have not regretted it one bit,” she says. “I thought I would never have a job I loved as much as the newspaper, but with the chamber and tourism, I love it. I am so content.”
Proctor has previous tourism experience having served on a tourism board in Stark County, Ohio, promoting sites such as the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
“It was a great experience and definitely whetted my appetite for tourism,” Proctor says.
Each of her “life-building blocks” has led Proctor to this place, this job.
Proctor had no intentions of leaving Topsail’s chamber, but when the opportunity arose for her to move into the tourism director role, she saw it as a “chance to impact the entire county.”
As county spokeswoman, Proctor played a pivotal role during and after Hurricane Florence.
“Pender County people are resilient. They are so strong. The hurricane knocked a lot of us flat, but we just got right back up,” she says.
With tourism as the second-leading industry in Pender County, Proctor works year-round to make sure the tax revenues from it help those who suffered as a result of the hurricane to continue to recover.
“During the fall, winter, and spring, we lay the groundwork,” Proctor says. “We advertise with programs we know that work.”
That means promoting the county on social media including several area-specific Facebook groups and websites. The county is also a member of North Carolina Coast Host that promotes Eastern North Carolina locations.
“We do not put our eggs in one basket,” Proctor says. “We border seven counties and the Atlantic Ocean, so we have a lot of places to draw from.”
Since March, Proctor has been busy helping potential visitors plan their trips to the county, providing personalized assistance to ensure that vacations align with individual interests and needs.
“What are your interests? Are you bringing your family? Are there young children, grandparents? We try to give personalized tips and attention,” Proctor says.
Pender County Tourism is open to answer questions and guide visitors to visit the wide array of attractions in the area for everyone from history buffs to trailblazers and beachcombers.
Whether it is biking the East Coast Greenway or hiking the Mountain-to-Sea Trail, touring Moore’s Creek Battlefield or the Canetuck Rosenwald School, visiting the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center or the Missiles and More Museum, Proctor is confident that the one-on-one assistance the agency’s staff provides can compete with travel websites like TripAdvisor.
“It is easy to promote what you love,” Proctor says. “I feel blessed. My goal when I was hired was to raise awareness for Pender County. We have so much to offer, and we are one of the most rapidly growing counties in the state. There are good people who live here, fantastic schools, so it is not just a place to vacation, but a place to live and play in your whole life.”
In WILMA this summer, meet some of the women responsible for putting the Cape Fear region on the map when it comes to attracting visitors and bolstering the local tourism industry.
To view more of photographer Erin Costa's work, go to www.erincostaphoto.com.
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