Tourism spending increased in 97 of 100 North Carolina counties in 2014, the governor’s office and state Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Domestic visitor spending statewide topped $21.32 billion for the year, up 5.5 percent from 2013.
Visitor spending in Mecklenburg County totaled $4.89 billion in 2014, up 6.1 percent from 2013, according to a study from Visit North Carolina and the U.S. Travel Association. Elsewhere, visitor spending was just over $2 billion in Wake County, $1.26 billion in Guilford County and $1.02 billion in Dare County.
Visitor spending directly supported 204,909 jobs in North Carolina and generated more than $4.9 billion in payroll income across the state, the study showed.
Ninety out of 100 counties saw direct tourism employment growth last year. With 48,327, Mecklenburg County had the largest number of direct tourism employees in 2014 with the biggest payroll total of $1.6 billion. It was followed by Wake County with 21,143 tourism employees, and Guilford County with 12,761.
“Tourism is a major force in North Carolina’s economic development,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement. “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.”
Tourism spending decreased in 2014 from 2013 in three counties: Swain, Granville and Davie.
State tax receipts as a result of visitor expenditures topped $1 billion in 2014, and local tax revenues directly resulting from visitor spending totaled more than $636.3 million. In Mecklenburg County, state tax receipts from visitor spending totaled $223.3 million in 2014, and local tax revenues from visitor dollars totaled $117.9 million.
“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,” said Commerce Secretary John Skvarla.
The North Carolina 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 statewide.
The state doesn’t yet have statistics on international visitors for 2014. In 2013, about $437 million in spending was associated with these visitors.