Stanly sees over $100M in visitor spending for first time

By Chris Miller, for the SNAP

North Carolina set a record for visitor spending in 2022, according to county-level data released by the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

Tourism generated $33.3 billion in 2022, according to data released in August by the Department of Commerce. This marked a 15.2% increase over the previous year.

All but four of the state’s 100 counties experienced spending growth. This includes Stanly County, which experienced a 12% increase in visitor spending from 2021 to 2022. That places the county 25th in the state in terms of the percentage of increase.

That is progress, as Stanly was ranked 34th in the state for growth from 2020 to 2021.

Total spending in Stanly in 2022 was $104 million, up from 2021’s total of $92 million. This includes $34 million for food and beverages; $28 million for transportation; $22 million for lodging; $12 million for recreation; and $8 million for retail.

The county ranked 52nd in terms of the overall amount of visitor spending.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Chris Lambert, executive director of the Stanly County Convention & Visitors Bureau, noting 2022 was the first year the county surpassed $100 million in visitor spending. “Getting over the $100 million mark is phenomenal.”

The milestone reflects just how far the county has progressed from 2005 — Lambert’s first year as executive director — when visitor spending was around $50 million.

“We’ve been able to increase all the things that we have,” he said of the county’s growth. “We’ve got many more amenities than when we had when I started…It definitely shows that the CVB is doing what they need to do and that visitors are actually enjoying our area.”

Stanly, which had a direct tourism workforce of 640 people, generated about $3.4 million in local taxes and had $123.14 in state/local tax savings per resident.

Much of the success, Lambert said, was attributed to more people traveling following several years of Covid-19 restrictions. Stanly continues to be a go-to destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

“A lot of people come into our area for our natural attractions like Lake Tillery, Badin Lake, Falls Reservoir and Morrow Mountain,” Lambert said.

Travel across North Carolina continues to increase from 2020 when the state’s tourism plummeted by 32%. The rise of visitor spending in Stanly accounts for 0.3% of all visitor spending in North Carolina, according to Visit NC.

Neighboring Cabarrus County saw a total of $567 million in visitor spending, second most in the Charlotte Metro area, whereas Union saw $187 million, Montgomery had $53 million and Anson had $24 million.