*For more detailed information about Watauga County and the High Country please see this article*
Governor Pat McCrory and Department of Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla, III announced this week that 97 of the state’s 100 counties saw increases in visitor spending in 2014. Data from Visit North Carolina showed that visitor spending neared $5 billion in Mecklenburg, topped $2 billion in Wake and topped $1 billion in Guilford and Dare counties. Rounding out the top ten counties for visitor spending in the state were Buncombe ($963 million), Forsyth ($785 million), Durham ($700 million), New Hanover ($508 million), Brunswick ($496 million) and Cumberland ($490 million) counties.
Domestic visitors spent a record $21.3 billion statewide in 2014, an increase of 5.5 percent from the previous year. State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending topped $1 billion in 2014, and local tax revenues directly resulting from visitor spending totaled more than $636 million. Visitor expenditures directly supported 204,909 jobs and generated more than $4.9 billion in payroll income across North Carolina.
“Tourism is a major force in North Carolina’s economic development,” said Governor McCrory. “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.”
Secretary Skvarla added, “Nothing compares with our state’s diverse natural beauty and rewarding experiences at every turn. We can take pride in North Carolina’s position as the sixth most-visited state in the nation with nearly 50 million overnight visitors in 2014.”
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. Highlights include:
- Mecklenburg County received $4.9 billion in domestic travelers’ expenditures to lead all of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Wake County ranked second with $2.0 billion, followed by Guilford County with $1.3 billion.
- The largest percent increases in visitor spending were seen in Orange (7.7 percent), Cabarrus (7.6 percent), Carteret (7.3 percent) and Moore (7.1 percent) counties. Dare County followed with a 7.0 percent increase, followed by Union (6.9 percent), Buncombe (6.8 percent), Beaufort (6.6 percent), Iredell (6.5 percent) and Wake (6.5 percent) counties.
- Positive spending growth was seen throughout the state’s regions. The Southwest (6.2 percent) and North Central (6.1 percent) regions experienced the strongest growth, yet all eight regions had spending growth of 4 percent or more from 2013 to 2014.
- Mecklenburg County had the largest number of direct tourism employees (48,327) and the largest payroll ($1.6 billion). Four other counties had more than 10,000 direct tourism employees: Wake (21,143), Guilford (12,761), Dare (12,304) and Buncombe (10,227).
- Ninety percent of the state’s counties saw direct tourism employment growth in 2014. Counties with the largest year-over-year increases in direct tourism employment: were Cabarrus (5.3 percent), Orange (5.2 percent), Moore (4.8 percent), Dare (4.7 percent), Carteret (4.7 percent), Union (4.6 percent) and Buncombe (4.5 percent).