New data from Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, shows that domestic visitor spending increased in 91 of the state’s 100 counties in 2015.
Visitors spent a record $21.9 billion statewide last year, an increase of nearly 3 percent from the previous year.
“Tourism is a major force in North Carolina’s economic development,” Gov. Pat McCrory said. “The industry is fueling a continued growth in jobs and contributing substantial sums to the state budget and local economies in every corner of our great state.”
The visitor spending figures come from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina and conducted by the U.S. Travel Association. The study uses sales and tax revenue data, employment figures and other industry and economic data to determine the overall impact of visitor spending in North Carolina.
Visitor expenditures in 2015 directly supported 211,487 jobs and generated nearly $5.3 billion in payroll income across North Carolina. State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending topped $1.1 billion, and local tax revenues directly resulting from visitor spending totaled more than $660 million.
“Nothing compares with our state’s diverse natural beauty and rewarding experiences at every turn,” North Carolina Commerce Secretary Skvarla said. “We can take pride in North Carolina’s position as the sixth most-visited state in the nation with nearly 55 million visitors last year.”
Full tables showing county-by-county tourism impact figures can be accessed here. Highlights of the 2015 totals include:
- Mecklenburg County ranked first among North Carolina’s 100 counties, receiving $5 billion in domestic travelers’ expenditures. Wake County ranked second with $2.1 billion, followed by Guilford County with $1.3 billion and Dare with $1.1 billion. Buncombe County, for the first time, topped $1 billion in visitor spending.
- The largest year-over-year percent increases in visitor spending were seen in Polk (11.8 percent), Cherokee (7.8 percent), Vance (4.7 percent), Henderson (4.7 percent) and Union (4.6 percent) counties. Montgomery, Catawba and Cleveland counties followed with a 4.5 percent increase each. Rounding out the top 10 in largest increases were Richmond and Pasquotank counties (4.4 percent).
- Positive spending growth was seen throughout the state’s economic development regions. The Western (3.9 percent) and North Central (3.3 percent) regions experienced the strongest growth, yet all eight regions had spending growth of 2 percent or more.
- Mecklenburg County had the largest number of direct tourism employees (49,870) and the largest payroll ($1.7 billion). Four other counties had more than 10,000 direct tourism employees: Wake (21,897), Guilford (13,127), Dare (12,711) and Buncombe (10,637).
- Ninety-two percent of the state’s counties saw direct tourism employment growth in 2015. Counties with the largest year-over-year increases in direct tourism employment were Polk (12.1 percent), Cherokee (7.4 percent), Vance (5.0 percent), Union (4.9 percent), Montgomery (4.8 percent), Richmond (4.7 percent) and Pasquotank (4.7 percent).
The release of the 2015 study comes a week after McCrory announced that visitation to North Carolina’s state sites, attractions and museums in fiscal year 2015-16, which ended June 30, is up 7.7 percent compared to fiscal year 2014-15. Total visitation to the state’s natural and cultural sites increased by nearly 1.8 million visitors.
In addition, the 11.7 million visitors to the North Carolina State Parks system through the end of July is up 10 percent over midsummer visitation in 2015, according to the governor’s office. Total state parks visitation in 2015 was a record 17.3 million.