Sunday, September 24, 2023

Pender County sees near-record tourism spending in 2021

The new Topsail Island Bridge will link Surf City's mainland to the island, including the Surf City Welcome Center. (Photo courtesy of Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, Inc.)
According to a recently released study, Pender County, as well as the entire state, saw a spike in tourism spending in 2021. (Photo courtesy of Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, Inc.)

PENDER COUNTY — Pender County, the fifth fastest growing in the state, was one of 14 counties statewide to experience an increase in visitor spending during the pandemic. The momentum continues to snowball, as recent reports indicate a 6% increase in tourism dollars in 2021.

Last year, Pender County reported $165.3 million spent by tourists, according to a study conducted by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of N.C.

“To see another significant increase only demonstrates how important the tourism industry is to Pender County’s economy,” Pender County Tourism Director Tammy Proctor said in a press release.

Pender County generated $6 million in state tax revenue through state sales and excise taxes last year, and $8.9 million was created in local taxes from travel-generated and tourism-related industries. According to the release, this equates to a savings of $243.32 per county resident.

More than 924 employees work in the Pender County tourism industry, which generates more than $37.1 million in local payroll.

Across the state, tourism employment increased by 10.5% to 197,500 workers. That’s an 18.9% jump to $7.7 billion in direct tourism industry earnings.

Visitor spending across the Tar Heel state rebounded in 2021 by 45%, totaling $28.9 billion, just shy of 2019’s record of $29.22 billion. The state welcomed more than 45 million visitors last year to “the natural beauty” of its public spaces, culinary traditions and innovation, according to Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell.

“These findings are something that everyone in North Carolina can celebrate,” Tuttell said in the release. “They’re a testament to the resilience of our businesses and our residents, and to the enduring appeal of destinations that include everything a traveler might want. North Carolina can claim it all.”

Additional statewide highlights include:
• Domestic travelers spent a record $28.6 billion in 2021. Spending was up 45.2% from $19.7 billion in 2020.
• International travelers spent $337 million in 2021, an increase of 25.6% from the previous year.
• Visitors to North Carolina generated $3.9 billion in federal, state, and local taxes in 2021. The total represents a 29% spike from 2020.
• State tax receipts from visitor spending rose 34% to nearly $1.2 billion in 2021.
• Local tax receipts grew 26% to $1.1 billion.
• Visitors spent more than $79 million per day in North Carolina. That spending added $6.4 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $3.3 million in state taxes and $3.1 million in local taxes).
• Each North Carolina household saved $580 on average in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state. Savings per capita averaged $222.

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