STATE: N.C. visitor spending soars 15% in 2022

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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Research shows a record $33.3 billion impact on state and local economies

Gov. Roy Cooper announced today that the North Carolina tourism economy reached its highest level ever with travelers spending more than $33.3 billion on trips to and within the state. The previous record of $29.22 billion was set in pre-pandemic 2019.

“Tourism is a vital economic force in our state supporting thousands of small businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Cooper said. “We can take pride that visitors see North Carolina as a diverse, inclusive and welcoming place and we all need to work to keep it that way.”

Cooper’s announcement coincides with National Travel and Tourism Week (May 7-13), when travel and tourism professionals across the country unite to underscore the value of travel to the economy, businesses, communities and personal well-being. The state’s nine Welcome Centers will host activities throughout the week.

North Carolina has invested hundreds of millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan into helping the tourism industry to recover and thrive following the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether funding Business Recovery Grants, the Moonshine to Motorsports Trail, or investing in Tourism Marketing, the state is committed to supporting the tourism industry’s return to record-breaking heights.

The state’s tourism-supported workforce increased 9.8 percent to 216,900 jobs in 2022. That figure reverses the more than 26 percent loss in employment suffered in 2020. Tourism payroll increased 13.5 percent to $8.7 billion. Also, as a result of visitor spending, state and local governments saw rebounds in tax revenues to nearly $2.5 billion.

The figures are preliminary findings from research commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, and conducted by Tourism Economics. In measuring the economic value of the travel sector, the research incorporates a broad range of data sources to ensure that the entire visitor economy is quantified in detail. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, OmniTrak visitor profiles, the U.S. Census, STR, AirDNA and KeyData lodging reports and the N.C. Department of Revenue are among the sources included in this comprehensive model. More information about the study can be found online at, which also links to archived reports dating back to 2005.

“The new report gives North Carolinians plenty of reasons to celebrate,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “Visitor spending sustains more than 45,000 small businesses that meet travelers’ needs for lodging and dining, transportation, retail, and recreation. Tourism means jobs in all 100 counties, and we will continue our efforts to grow our first-in-talent workforce in travel and other North Carolina industries.”

Sanders noted that as a result of travelers’ contributions to state and local tax revenue, North Carolina households averaged about $512 in yearly savings.

N.C. Tourism facts:

  • Total spending by domestic and international visitors in North Carolina reached $33.3 billion in 2022.That sum represents a 15.2% increase over 2021 expenditures. The figure falls 14% above the record $29.22 billion spent in 2019.
  • Domestic travelers spent a record $32.4 billion in 2022. Spending was up 13.4% from $28.6 billion in 2021.
  • International travelers spent $910 million in 2022, up 170% from the previous year.
  • Visitors to North Carolina generated $4.2 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2022. The total represents a 7.9% increase from 2020.
  • State tax receipts from visitor spending rose 6.5%  to nearly $1.3 billion in 2022.
  • Local tax receipts grew 3.5% to nearly $1.2 billion.
  • Direct tourism employment in North Carolina increased 9.8% to 216,900.
  • Direct tourism payroll increased 13.5% to $8.7 billion.
  • Visitors spend more than $91 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds $6.7 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $3.5 million in state taxes and $3.2 million in local taxes).
  • Each North Carolina household saved $512 on average in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state. Savings per capita averaged $230.
  • North Carolina hosted approximately 43 million visitors in 2022.