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Richard Petty is flanked by Amber Scarlett, left, and Mary Joan Pugh after receiving the Mary Joan Pugh Excellence in Hospitality Award.    Photo: Richard Schoenberger / Manor House Creative

Petty, Caughron honored at TDA annual meeting

SOPHIA — While Richard Petty was honored for his hospitality efforts, David Caughron took home a couple of awards during the Randolph County Tourism Development Authority’s annual meeting at Millikan Farms on Dec. 13.


Petty, known as the King of NASCAR, was presented the Mary Joan Pugh Excellence in Hospitality Award for his efforts to support tourism in Randolph County. Amber Scarlett, TDA executive director, recognized him for giving back to the community, including offering his time and image to promote tourism. 


“He’s an inspiration to many generations of fans and visitors,” Scarlett said. 


Petty, joined by Pugh, the first winner of the award that shares her name, accepted the award by saying, “I want to thank everyone for all their support of Petty Garage, the (Richard Petty) Museum and the (Victory Junction) Camp. When (visitors) are here, we use that opportunity to tell them about what’s here (in Randolph County).”


Caughron, who has been serving on the TDA Board of Directors for 25 years, was first recognized for all those years of service to tourism. He is now chair of the board and presides over the Executive Committee.


“I’m very humbled,” he said, accepting a North Carolina-shaped award with a heart covering the area of Randolph County. “It’s an honor to serve. I learned so much from (former TDA chair) Hal Johnson and Mary Joan Pugh (who retired as TDA chair). It’s amazing to see how the TDA has grown. It’s a challenging time but we’re a close-knit group. The TDA couldn’t have succeeded without our cooperation. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”


Scarlett then surprised Caughron again, presenting him with the Hospitality Hero Award. Listing his many achievements over the years, she called him “a leader with skills and compassion.”


Thanking the TDA again, Caughron gave credit to his wife, Annette. “There’s a saying, ‘If you get David, you get two for the price of one. I couldn’t have done it without my best friend.”


Story told by the numbers

During a shortened business session, Richard Schoenberger of Manor House Creative unveiled the cover for the Randolph County 2024 Official Travel Guide. An elephant named Louie is the focus, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the North Carolina Zoo, which opened as the Interim Zoo in 1974. 


Later, Scarlett presented the Annual Report for 2022. The figures showed noticeable increases from the previous two years of COVID-caused pandemic.


The figures tell the story:


Economic Impact Numbers

— $86.20 tax relief to each resident of Randolph County as a result of visitor spending.

— State Tax Revenues: $7.9 million.

— Local Tax Revenues: $4.7 million.

— Total payroll generated by tourism industry in Randolph County: $42 million.

— More than 1,130 direct tourism jobs in Randolph County.


Visitor Spending

— Visitors spent $178.63 million in 2022 (an increase of approximately 4% from 2021 ($172.06 million). The data is provided by an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.


Occupancy Tax Revenues

— Occupancy collections increased 3.2% compared to 2021.

— ADR (average daily rate) increased 20.2% from 2021.

— RevPAR (revenue per available room) increased 23.4% from 2021.

— Demand for hotel rooms increased 3.2% when compared to 2021.

— Revenues increased 23.4% when compared to 2021 as a whole.


Historical Growth in Revenues

Overall tax revenue distributions to the Authority for calendar year 2022 were $1,343,329.70 compared to 2021 revenues of $1,155,778.55. This is a 16% increase in revenues from 2021.


(*Occupancy tax revenue reports are provided by Randolph County Finance Office.)


It was also pointed out during the meeting that the two Visitor Centers on I-73/74 south of Seagrove have received more than 105,000 visitors this year, by far more than any other year.