Many vacationing closer to home

DURHAM That included college students who might ordinarily go somewhere for spring break.

"Well, I worked and I basically just studied," explained NC State student Ashley Jones. "I'm trying to save money cause it's kinda hard these days with the economy."

Jones' decision is part of a larger trend.

"It's gonna be a tough year," said Wit Tuttell with the NC Division of Tourism.

Tuttel said the number of people visiting North Carolina dropped 5 percent in 2008. 2009 figures to be no better. Those who are travelling are searching for bargains.

"They're being choosey and they're staying closer to home," he explained.

Hopefully they won't stay home altogether. Tourism is a $17 billion industry with 200,000 workers.

"So you think about that. That's more than Lowe's Motor Speedway can hold. If you stop visiting, that Speedway's gonna be empty," Tuttel offered.

But officials are optimistic. They say North Carolina offers something for everyone - be it the beaches, the mountains, or something in between.

"We're a great getaway and people need that you know in hard times people want to relax, they want to escape," said Tuttel.

The hope is that they'll decide to escape within the state. That even in these tough times, they'll spring for a break.

Tourism officials say North Carolina is the sixth most visited state in the country and benefits from being relatively close to major population centers up and down the east coast which could help it more than other, more distant, destinations.

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