How do North Carolina shellfish fit into your travel plans? A team of researchers wants to know — and is hoping you’ll answer through a new survey. The results will help improve the North Carolina Oyster Trail, which connects tourists with local businesses and other sites of interest.
“The survey will gather information on the types of oyster-related activities visitors would participate in; how they would learn about these activities; and their general travel behaviors,” says team leader Whitney Knollenberg, of NC State University’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management.
Once they have the results, the team will see how well existing businesses, nonprofits, and activities meet tourism demand.
“For example, say that a lot of respondents want to attend seafood festivals, or they’re willing to travel a long distance to take a shellfish farm tour. Ideally, there would be ample opportunities for them to choose from,” says Knollenberg. “Once we understand what visitors want, we can help businesses serve them.”
The researchers will apply their findings to enhancing the NC Oyster Trail, a network of oyster growers, seafood restaurants and retailers, and coastal education sites. Since debuting in May 2020, more than 40 members have joined the trail, which is administered by North Carolina Sea Grant and the North Carolina Coastal Federation in partnership with the North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association.
“The ultimate goal of the trail is to bolster the coastal economy while fostering appreciation for local seafood and culture,” says Jane Harrison, N.C. Sea Grant’s coastal economics specialist and a member of the research team. “The survey results will help inform how we plan for the trail’s future.”
The study is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and also includes Emily Yeager from East Carolina University, Carla Barbieri of NC State, and Sea Grant’s Julie Leibach. To take the survey, visit go.ncsu.edu/ncoystersurvey. It will be open to respondents through Feb. 28.
Those who complete the survey have a chance to win free home delivery of 50 oysters from Oysters Carolina, based on Harkers Island.