Special to The News Herald

Tourism is alive and well in Burke County and the state of North Carolina based on new data released last week.

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

“Burke County’s Tourism Economy continues to grow exponentially and outpace all of the counties that border Burke,” said Ed Phillips, CEO of the Burke County Tourism Development Authority. “Public lands, parks and other outdoor attractions make Burke an attractive destination in western North Carolina. Business travel related to industrial development and other corporate initiatives also plays an important role in tourism in Burke County.

Key tourism impact points 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 generated in Burke totaled $5.3 million through state sales and excise taxes, as well as personal and corporate income taxes. About $4.2 million in local taxes was generated from sales and property tax revenues from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses.

These statistics come from the Economic Impact of Travel in North Carolina Counties 2021, which can be accessed at partners.visitnc.com/economic-impact-studies. The study was prepared for Visit Carolina North by Tourism Economics in collaboration with the US Travel Association.

Nationwide, visitor spending in 2021 increased by 44.9% to reach $28.9 billion. After devastating pandemic-related losses in 2020, the total fell just short of the record $29.22 billion spent in 2019. Direct tourism employment rose 10.5% to 197,500.

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

Nationwide highlights include:

  • Total spending by domestic and international visitors to North Carolina reached $28.9 billion in 2021. This amount represents a 44.9% increase over spending in 2020. The figure falls 1% below the record $29.22 billion spent in 2019.
  • Domestic travelers spent a record $28.6 billion in 2021. Spending grew 45.2% from $19.7 billion in 2020.
  • International travelers spent $337 million in 2021, up 25.6% from a year earlier.
  • Visitors to North Carolina generated $3.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2021. The total represents a 29% increase from 2020.
  • State tax revenue from visitor spending grew 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. These expenditures 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 an average of $580 in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state. Per capita savings averaged $222.
  • North Carolina welcomed nearly 45 million visitors in 2021.

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