Tourism spending in Burke hits new record in 2021 | government and politics

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Tourism is alive and well in Burke County and the state of North Carolina, according to new data released last week.

Domestic and international visitors to Burke County spent $121.27 million in 2021, up 46.9% from 2020. The data comes from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the North Carolina Economic Development Partnership.

“The Tourism Economy in Burke County continues to grow exponentially, outpacing all counties adjacent to Burke,” said Ed Phillips, CEO of the Burke County Tourism Development Corporation. “Public lands, parks, and other outdoor activities make Burke an attractive destination in western North Carolina. Business travel related to industrial development and other corporate ventures also plays an important role in tourism in Burke County.”

Tourism impact highlights for 2021 include:

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  • The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 800 people in Burke County.
  • The total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Burke was $27.5 million.
  • State tax revenue from Burke totaled $5.3 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. Local taxes of approximately $4.2 million were generated from sales and property tax revenues from travel-sourced and travel-supported businesses.

These statistics are from “Economic Impact of Travel in North Carolina Counties 2021,” available at The study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by Tourism Economics in collaboration with the US Travel Association.

Statewide, visitor spending rose 44.9% to $28.9 billion in 2021. After devastating losses from the pandemic in 2020, the total fell to just under the record $29.22 billion spent in 2019. Direct tourism employment increased by 10.5% to 197,500.

“These findings are something everyone in North Carolina can celebrate,” said Wit Tuttell, Director of Visit NC. “They are a testament to the resilience of our businesses and residents, and the enduring appeal of destinations that contain everything a traveler could want. The economic well-being of the state and of all its communities rises from the pleasures travelers find in the natural beauty of our public spaces, our culinary traditions and innovations, our remarkable towns and vibrant cities. North Carolina can demand anything.”

Statewide highlights include:

  • Total spending by domestic and international visitors in North Carolina reached $28.9 billion in 2021. This amount represents a 44.9% increase over 2020 spending. The figure falls 1% below the record $29.22 billion spent in 2019.
  • Domestic travelers spent a record $28.6 billion in 2021. Spending increased 45.2 percent from $19.7 billion in 2020.
  • International travelers spent $337 million in 2021, up 25.6% year-on-year.
  • North Carolina visitors earned $3.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2021. The total represents a 29% increase over 2020.
  • Government tax revenues from visitor spending increased by 34% to nearly $1.2 billion in 2021.
  • Local tax revenues rose 26% to $1.1 billion.
  • Direct tourism employment in North Carolina rose 10.5% to 197,500.
  • Direct tourism payroll rose 18.9% to $7.7 billion.
  • Visitors spent more than $79 million a day in North Carolina. That spending added $6.4 million a day to state and local tax revenues (about $3.3 million in state taxes and $3.1 million in local taxes).
  • Every North Carolina household saved an average of $580 in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state. The average savings per person was $222.
  • North Carolina hosted nearly 45 million visitors in 2021.

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