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North Carolina rises to 5th most visited state with $35.6 billion tourism record


Carolina Journal

As summer kicks off this Memorial Day, North Carolina is now the fifth most visited state for tourism in 2023, up from sixth place in 2022. That’s according to research commissioned by Visit North Carolina, part of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, and conducted by Tourism Economics.

According to a North Carolina Department of Commerce press release,  nearly 43 million visitors spent more than $35.6 billion on trips to and within the state, surpassing the previous record of $33.3 billion set in 2022.

The research was compiled using various data sources, including the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, OmniTrak visitor profiles, the US Census, STR, AirDNA and KeyData lodging reports, and the NC Department of Revenue.

The announcement comes during  National Travel and Tourism Week (May 19-25), during which the state’s Welcome Centers will host activities. 

The state’s tourism-supported workforce also increased 4.8 percent to 227,200 jobs in 2023.  Tourism payroll increased 6.6% to $9.3 billion. Also, as a result of visitor spending, state and local governments saw rebounds in tax revenues to nearly $2.6 billion.

North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders said North Carolina households average $518 in yearly savings thanks to travelers’ contributions to state and local tax revenue.

“North Carolina residents in all 100 counties benefit from the money visitors spend on pursuits from our smallest towns to our largest cities,” she said. “Tourism means jobs for more than 50,000 small businesses and our first-in-talent workforce. These workers meet travelers’ needs for transportation as well as lodging, dining, shopping and recreation.”

North Carolina is behind California, Florida, Texas, and New York in domestic visitation. The past four years have seen tight competition with Pennsylvania and Tennessee for fifth place. In addition to 2023’s record domestic travel spending, North Carolina also saw gains in the international market. With nearly 700,000 international travelers, spending rose 9.5 percent to $997 million.

More information about the study can be found online, which also links to archived reports dating back to 2005. 

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