Local News

U.S. tourists spent $16.9B in N.C. last year

Posted May 12, 2009 2:32 p.m. EDT

— Despite the slowing economy, U.S. tourists spent a record $16.9 billion in North Carolina last year, officials said Tuesday.

The visitor spending topped the $16.5 billion figure from 2007, which was the previous record, and positions the state to top the $17.1 billion in total visitor spending – domestic and foreign tourists – set in 2007.

"The tourism industry is a critical economic engine for North Carolina, and this continued growth in revenues is a positive sign,” Gov. Beverly Perdue said in a statement.

The figures are the preliminary results of an annual study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association for the state Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development. The study uses sales and tax revenue data and employment figures to determine the overall impact of visitor spending in North Carolina.

State tax revenues from visitors increased 3.5 percent from 2007, to $843.2 million. Local tax revenues also increased, gaining 2.5 percent to $542.3 million.

During the last five years, visitor spending has increased 27.3 percent, while state and local tax revenue is up 20.7 percent, according to the annual study.

North Carolina also moved from the seventh-most-visited state in 2007 to the sixth-most-visited last year, a study by TNS TravelsAmerica found.

“Despite the fact that fewer people are traveling, we are still gaining in market share over our closest competitors,” Lynn Minges, assistant secretary for Tourism, Marketing and Global Branding for the state Department of Commerce, said in a statement.

The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 190,000 North Carolinians, officials said.