New Bern - Homegrown Tools

New Bern, NC

Updated: 2022

New Bern, NC took a collaborative approach to maintain tourism and support small businesses, leveraging statewide resources and running several local programs to ensure that local businesses could reopen and position the town as a safe travel destination.

Population2020 29,985
Median Household Income2020$43,406
Poverty Rate 202018.5%
Proximity to Urban Center 40 miles to Jacksonville, NC
Proximity to Interstate Highway 64 miles to I-795
Case Study Time Frame 2021
Municipal Budget proposed 2022-2023139.9 million
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
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Early into the pandemic the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA) spearheaded a public-private partnership to provide training and guidance to the hospitality industry on safe operations during COVID, making NC one of the first states to take this action. The NC Department of Health and Human Services, NC State Cooperative Extension and Visit NC are all involved in the development and implementation of the program. The goal was to create trustworthy standards for reopening restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. While meeting state and local standards, it has allowed businesses to safely continue operations; because of the industry’s proactive approach has also limited the amount of regulation that the state has had to put in place to keep the public safe.


What are the lessons learned from this story?


Partnerships enable fast action, increased reach, and buy-in. The partnerships that NCRLA employed to develop and implement the Count On Me NC campaign enabled launch at a record speed. They leveraged the NC Cooperative Extension’s established training capability to develop learning modules, Visit NC’s data and relationships with local destination marketing organizations, NC Department of Health and Human Services for public health guidance, and the association’s own relationships with and knowledge of
hospitality businesses. Count On Me NC engaged all of the destination marketing organizations across the state to distribute information about the trainings, which is key as widespread adoption of public health measures is necessary for effectiveness.


Research and data are critical to driving decisions about marketing in normal circumstances, and even more critical during a pandemic. The Count On Me NC campaign and Visit NC promotion efforts were rooted in market data from regular traveler sentiment surveys, which enabled them to target their message effectively. Locally in New Bern, Swiss Bear was able to use surveys of downtown business owners to develop successful programs and mitigate conflicts when they arose.


Disasters can build resilience. New Bern is no stranger to disaster recovery. In the past five years the town has been impacted by multiple hurricanes and forced to respond and adjust. These previous experiences with hurricanes strengthened community resiliency – the ability to adapt and collaborate. They learned to think ahead about recovery plans, but also be prepared for highs and lows. As a specific example, the town’s annual fall Mum Fest has been a downtown tradition for 40 years. The festival had to shift dramatically in the last five years – rescheduling, scaling back, and balancing hurricane debris cleanup to ensure space for the festival without sacrificing other areas of the city. But through all these changes the