Laurie Paolicelli, Steven Ray Miller, Valerie Schwartz

Laurie Paolicelli has served as the executive director for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitor’s Bureau for 11 years. Deb Stroman, who nominated Paolicelli for this week’s Hometown Hero award, says that Paolicelli “exudes energy, creativity and kindness.”

As the executive director for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitor’s Bureau, Paolicelli has worked to make a difference in the way Chapel Hill and the surrounding area is seen by both visitors and long-term residents.

“Tourism is strengthened by community pride,” said Paolicelli. “When the community knows all the happenings in town and how visitors look at our community, it helps actual residents appreciate it more and have a greater sense of what to do with visiting friends and family.”

Tourism is often seen as activities that out-of-towners seek out, but knowing interesting information and places to visit is just as helpful for those who make their home here. In cooperating with the University of North Carolina, many downtown establishments, and the towns of Carrboro and Hillsborough, the Visitor’s Bureau has helped to put Orange County on the map, figuratively and literally.

“I’m definitely proud of the growth we’ve had in the tourism industry in Orange County,” said Paolicelli. “Triple-digit growth in the number of people coming here … We’ve started a movement telling our story to new audiences.”

Those “new audiences” translate to 606,845 more visitors to Orange County “Attractions, Welcome Centers and Tours,” as recorded by the Visitor’s Bureau, since 2006. With Orange County on the rise in rankings of “travel impact” in North Carolina, Paolicelli’s work as executive director has produced positive results for our community.

“Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow, but we’ve definitely created a presence for Orange County,” said Paolicelli.