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North Carolina tourism increased to near-record numbers in 2021

Gov. Roy Cooper is touting the recovery of North Carolina’s tourism industry following the COVID-19 pandemic, which last year nearly matched record visitor spending in 2019.

Visitors to North Carolina spent $28.9 billion in 2021, or just 1% below record 2019 spending levels and 45% more than 2020, when travel restrictions tied to the pandemic devastated the state’s tourism industry.

“We know visitor spending helps fuel our economy in all 100 counties by sustaining local businesses, supporting thousands of jobs and bringing in tax revenue and that’s why we’ve been working to encourage tourism,” Cooper said. “After being hit hard in 2020, tourism has bounced back as people around the world are again getting to see and experience the greatest state in the country.”

Cooper announced the tourism rebound during National Travel and Tourism Week, and he pointed to the state’s fifth place ranking in domestic visitation as evidence tourism in the Tar Heel State is thriving.

“The state’s tourism-supported workforce increased 10.5% to 197,500 jobs in 2021. That figure reverses the more than 26% loss in employment suffered in 2020. The total remains 18% below the record 242,600 jobs from 2019,” according to a Cooper statement. “Tourism payroll increased 19% to $7.7 billion. As a result of visitor spending, state and local governments saw rebounds in tax revenues to $2.3 billion.”

The data comes from research conducted by Tourism Economics on behalf of Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. The preliminary findings aim to measure the economic value of the travel sector using data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, OmniTrak visitor profiles, the U.S. Census, STR lodging reports and the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

The research shows that while domestic visitor spending has fully recovered in North Carolina, international spending still lags. Domestic visitors spent $28.6 billion in 2021, or 2.4% more than the previous record in 2019 and 45.2% more than the $19.7 billion spent in 2020. International visitor spending, meanwhile, remains down more than 74% from 2019. International travelers spent $337 million in 2021, an increase of 26% over 2020.

“We’re encouraged by the report on the recovery of our tourism industry, which is essential to the state’s economic well-being,” said North Carolina Department of Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “More than 45,000 small businesses across North Carolina rely on what visitors spend — on everything from lodging and dining to transportation, recreation and retail.”

North Carolina’s 45 million visitors in 2021 generated $3.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes, up 29% from 2020. That included $1.2 billion in state tax receipts, up 34% over 2020, as well as $1.1 billion in local tax collections, a 26% increase.

Visitors to North Carolina spend more than $79 million per day, which translates to $3.3 million in state taxes and $3.1 million in local taxes each day, according to Tourism Economics.

This article was originally posted on North Carolina tourism increased to near-record numbers in 2021

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