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Thursday, July 18, 2024

NC tourism spending increased 15% to $33 billion in 2022

State officials reported a 15.3% increase in visitor spending across North Carolina in 2022.

Department of Commerce and Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina officials say the state benefited from $33.3 billion in visitor spending during the year.

The figure includes spending on lodging, food and beverage, recreation, retail and transportation.

The top 10 beneficiary counties were Mecklenburg ($5.3 billion), Wake ($3 billion), Buncombe ($2.9 billion), Dare ($2 billion), Guilford ($1.5 billion), Brunswick ($1.1 billion), New Hanover (also $1.1 billion), Durham ($1 billion), Forsyth ($988 million) and Moore ($750 million).

That means Mecklenburg and Wake, the state’s two largest counties by population, between them accounted for almost 25% of the overall total.

But Department of Commerce officials were quick to point out that the year-to-year growth between 2022 and 2021 implies that the benefits are being spread around, and that both urban and rural areas were sharing in the bounce-back from the pandemic.

Davidson County — aka barbecue country — led the way with a 34.9% growth rate. Durham, Wake and Mecklenburg were all around the 30% mark. Caswell County saw 25.8% growth. Orange, Guilford, Forsyth and Cabarrus counties were next up (growth rates from about 21% down to 18%).

Granville County rounded out the top 10, with spending there growing by 17.8% percent. (I can attest that a pair of Oxford mainstays, the Hot Sauce Festival and the Masonic Home for Children’s homecoming festival, were well-attended.)

The folks at Visit North Carolina did a deeper dive into the numbers, and say 2022 brought with it “approximately 43 million person-trips” in the state, sixth-highest in the U.S.

The coast and the mountains each got a little more than 11 million visitors, and the Piedmont got about double that.

All three regions cater first and foremost to other North Carolinians. The coast also saw significant visitation from, among others, Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Maryland. The mountains’ most common out-of-state visitors were from South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. The Piedmont was more of a mixed bag.

The analysis probably gives the folks at the N.C. Travel Association more ammo to argue for the existing school calendar law.

Visits to the coast were markedly seasonal, with 41% occurring in the summer and 29% in the fall (which in 2022 was doing a passable imitation of summer even as late as early November). The mountains and Piedmont were a little more consistent from season to season, though spring was a down period for both (20% and 18% respectively).

Unsurprisingly, folks who went to the coast primarily did so to go to the beach (71%). There were a broad range of popular activities in the mountains, while visiting friends/family and shopping were the big draws in the Piedmont.

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