Compared to 2020, visitor spending across the state was up 45% in 2021.
The numbers show a strong recovery seen from 2020, and for many counties from 2019, officials said.
All 100 counties in the state benefited, including those on the coast. For example, Dare County spending increased by 30%, or $1.8 billion, and also had an increase in direct tourism employees of 4%, or 12,295. Top percentage spending increases from 2020 were in Gates County, up 83%, and Beaufort County, up 71%. Gates also had a 25% increase in tourism employment.
“The strong economic results for one of our most vital industries speak to the resilience of our local tourism partners and to the state’s enduring appeal,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “We celebrate the qualities that make North Carolina an attractive destination and are inspired by the people who provide visitors to our state an outstanding travel experience.”
The preliminary findings are based on an annual visitor spending study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, and conducted by Tourism Economics in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association. The annual spending study provides preliminary estimates of domestic and international traveler expenditures as well as employment, payroll income, and state and local tax revenues directly generated by these expenditures.
The statistical model draws on detailed data from VisitNC as well as data derived from federal and state government sources, nationally known private and nonprofit travel organizations, and other travel industry sources.
Domestic travel statewide increased in 2021, as international visitation lagged. The spending total of $28.9 billion fell about 1% below the record set in 2019. The sum represents a 45% increase from pandemic-stricken 2020.
“Just as we’re gratified by the achievement statewide in 2021, the county-level report underscores the value of each destination,” said Wit Tuttell, director of Visit NC. “This is where travelers experience the state, from its natural beauty to the character of our people. It’s also the heart of the economic impact, the sustenance for thousands of businesses and local governments. We look forward to raising the arc even higher as we welcome more people to places they won’t find anywhere else.”