Dynamic Variation:

Creating the Plan

The Dare County Tourism Board, the public authority created through state legislation to lead marketing and promotion for Dare County’s Outer Banks, determined that a Long-Range Tourism Management Plan was necessary to guide the responsible growth of tourism and optimize the benefits it provided to the local community while mitigating the negative impacts. In the Spring of 2022, the Tourism Board sought proposals from qualified research and consulting firms. Through this proposal process, MMGY NextFactor, an industry-leading consulting firm specializing in travel and tourism, was selected as the lead agency to help bring this plan to life, along with project partner Tourism Economics, who provided expertise in forecasting and scenario modeling.

Along with MMGY NextFactor and Tourism Economics, a 19-member Task Force was created to provide strategic insight into the creation of the plan, along with a project team from the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. After an extensive 18-month process, the LRTMP was crafted and presented to the community at a public meeting on May 24, 2023 at the Ramada Plaza Oceanfront in Kill Devil Hills, NC.

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Outer Banks Values & Vision

Throughout the LRTMP planning process, led by the work of the Task Force, the core values and key differentiators of the Outer Banks were examined, while a shared vision provided an inspirational and aspirational look ahead.

A historically significant coastal community rooted in tradition, shaped by its dynamic natural environment and celebrated for its quality experiences for locals and visitors.

10-Year Vision:
In 2033, the Outer Banks will be idyllic island communities where residents and visitors coexist and thrive thanks to thoughtful efforts to balance and sustain quality of life with quality of place.


Phases of a Destination Management Plan

1. Project Planning & Management
Confirm project plan, management processes, and approach to stakeholder engagement

2. Destination Assessment
A data-driven assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses of the destination

3. Stakeholder Engagement
Proactively engage key stakeholders and community leaders to collaboratively develop the plan and generate buy-in

4. Situational Analysis
Summarize the current state of the local tourism ecosystem

5. Visioning Workshop
Develop future vision for the visitor economy and prioritize key issues and opportunities

6. Tourism Management Plan Development
Validate recommendations and the master plan phase

7. Implementation Plan Development
Develop a comprehensive implementation plan



What is a Tourism Management Plan?

Traditionally, the tourism sector has defined itself as a single tactic — marketing. It has also defined overall success as a single metric — volume. There are few other sectors beyond tourism where the organizations stewarding their industries spend so much more effort and resources on marketing a product than they do developing and managing a product. Addressing that in recent years, the world’s most progressive organizations in tourism have been expanding from destination marketing to destination management. It’s a shift from promoting communities to engaging and stewarding communities, which in turn, provides more livable, lovable and sustainable destinations.

In this new paradigm, the impact of tourism can no longer be measured solely in economic terms. We must also measure success against the well-being of destinations, considering nature, human health, and community identities. We must be thoughtful about how the quality of the visitor experience can be balanced with the quality of life for residents; about the types of visitors who would provide maximum financial value to our local communities while having the optimal social and environmental impact, and how we can responsibly grow our tourism industry for the benefit of all in our communities.

The future success of the visitor economy — and the growth of direct and indirect benefits it provides for the local economy — depend on the public, private and civic sectors collaborating to ensure the long-term viability of the destination. That alignment between government, industry and civic organizations is crucial. It requires area leaders co-developing a shared vision for the future that supports visitor growth while continually enhancing the destination as a healthy, dynamic and productive place for all residents to live, work and play.

A tourism management plan allows a community to take a strategic approach to define its competitive positioning as a destination. These plans are a critical step in identifying and prioritizing those opportunities for enhancements to the visitor and resident experience that will position the community as a desirable place to live, work and visit, and extend the benefits of the visitor economy throughout the community.

Why is a Tourism Management Plan needed?

Tourism has been the Outer Banks’ largest economic engine for many decades. Despite numerous natural and manmade calamities over the years, tourism has proven to be incredibly resilient and productive for our community. Today, tourism represents a $1.97 billion industry for Dare County.

The local industry’s success presents several challenges, though, as millions of guests visit our small community (37,000 year-round residents) each year. This strain has been exacerbated by the unprecedented boom in visitation we’ve seen during the COVID pandemic.

Tourism improves the quality of life for residents with the jobs, tax revenue, recreational and entertainment opportunities, and infrastructure dollars it provides. While these benefits are fundamental to our community, the negative impacts are significant as well.

The Dare County Tourism Board wishes to establish a long-term management plan for tourism that will allow it to grow responsibly and in a way that is sustainable over time, optimizing the benefits for the local community while minimizing and managing the negative impacts.

What are the intended results of creating this plan?

  • Creating a clearly defined long-term vision for Dare County’s visitor economy, to which the community and stakeholders are committed, with an agreed understanding of what success looks like
  • Identifying opportunities to develop and/or enhance visitor experiences that meet the visitors’ expectations while maintaining authenticity to the destination brand
  • Identifying areas of need that require management for proactive mitigation planning
  • Prioritizing actions for achieving the long-term vision that are realistic and achievable
  • Building stronger alignment between the visitor economy, economic development and community well-being through a collaborative process
  • Identifying the tools necessary to guide the management of tourism impacts on the environment, transportation, infrastructure, local culture and heritage and the economy

Was the Outer Banks community involved in the creation of this plan?

In consultation with the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, MMGY NextFactor developed an online survey to identify and gauge Dare County residents’ perceptions about a variety of key characteristics with respect to livability, culture, economy and sense of place on the Outer Banks. More than 4,500 residents and non-resident property owners responded to the survey between October 24 and November 28, 2022.

MMGY NextFactor also facilitated two resident town hall visioning sessions in January 2023 – one at the Fessenden Center Activity Room in Buxton, NC and one at the Ramada Plaza Oceanfront in Kill Devil Hills, NC. The meetings were attended by approximately 200 residents, as well as local media. These sessions offered residents and non-resident property owners an opportunity to share their vision for the future of tourism on the Outer Banks and were focused on solution-oriented exercises and group discussions.

In addition, a comprehensive stakeholder survey, in-depth one-on-one interviews and several focus groups with local community members contributed to the data-gathering process. The LRTMP report was crafted and presented to the public on May 24, 2023.

How is the LRTMP work funded?

The creation of the LRTMP, as well as the current and future implementation of the plan, is funded through the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau’s annual operating budget. The Bureau is funded entirely by a 1% Prepared Meals tax that is collected by Dare County restaurants and a 1% Occupancy Tax collected by Dare County lodging businesses throughout the year.