Tourism spending in Burke hits new record in 2021 | Govt. and Politics


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, an increase of 46.9 % from 2020. The data comes from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

“The Tourism Economy in Burke County continues to grow exponentially and outpace all of the counties that border Burke,” said Ed Phillips, CEO of the Burke County Tourism Development Authority. “The 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.”

Tourism impact highlights for 2021 include:

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  • The travel and tourism industry directly employees more than 800 people in Burke County.
  • 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, and taxes on personal and corporate income. About $4.2 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses.

These statistics come from the “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2021,” which can be accessed at The study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by Tourism Economics in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association.

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

“These findings are something that everyone in North Carolina can celebrate,” said Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell. “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. The economic well-being of the state and all its communities rises with the pleasures travelers find in the natural beauty of our public spaces, our culinary traditions and innovation, our remarkable towns and our spirited cities. North Carolina can claim it all.”

Statewide highlights include:

  • Total spending by domestic and international visitors in North Carolina reached $28.9 billion in 2021.That sum represents a 44.9% increase over 2020 expenditures. The figure falls 1% below the record $29.22 billion spent in 2019.
  • 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, up 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% increase 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.
  • Direct tourism employment in North Carolina increased 10.5% to 197,500.
  • Direct tourism payroll increased 18.9% to $7.7 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.
  • North Carolina hosted nearly 45 million visitors in 2021.


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