2017 Visitor Spending Hits a Record $7 Billion in Charlotte Region


Visitor spending hit record highs again in Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte region in 2017, continuing to surpass all other tourism-centric destinations in the Carolinas. In 2017, the Charlotte region hosted approximately 28.3 million visitors, an increase of 500,000 from 2016, according to research firm Longwoods International. The Charlotte region also continues to boast the largest number of direct tourism employees and the largest payroll in the state. The leisure and hospitality industry represents 1 in 9 or 136,300 jobs and is the fourth largest industry in the Charlotte region, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We look forward to seeing this data every year because it tells the story of the profound impact of tourism in the Charlotte region,” says Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tom Murray. “Charlotte’s visitor economy has grown every year since 2010, continuing to fuel job growth, provide tax savings for residents and help improve the quality of life for our entire community.”

The table below shows in detail the breakdown of the most recent visitor spending data in North Carolina counties (2017) and South Carolina counties (2016) in the Charlotte region, defined here as the Charlotte Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The employment directly supported by visitor spending is also highlighted.

County Visitor Spending (millions) Employment   Payroll (millions) State & Local
Tax Collections (millions)
Population**    Tax Savings by Resident***
Mecklenburg $5,381.42 52,250 $1,938.56 $387.61 1,076,837 $359.95
Cabarrus $446.84 4,580 $106.14 $33.45 206,872 $161.69
Gaston $261.75 2,000 $44.60 $19.35 220,182 $87.88
Iredell $256.88 1,960 $42.87 $22.11 175,711 $125.83
Rowan $174.79 1,450 $30.73 $15.00 140,644 $106.65
Union $139.75 1,080 $23.47 $10.29 231,666 $44.42
Lincoln $56.60 400 $9.79 $4.86 82,403 $58.98
York* $226.80 2,150 $40.31 $21.32 245,606 $86.81
Lancaster* $31.86 280 $5.11 $2.96 83,704 $35.36
Chester* $24.91 220 $4.04 $2.20 32,435 $67.83
2017 Total Charlotte MSA $7,001.60 66,370 $2,245.62 $519.15 2,496,060 $207.99
(Average MSA)
2016 Total Charlotte MSA $6,730.23 64,610 $2,071.38 $499.57 2,454,856 $203.50
(Average MSA)
YOY Percent Change +4% +2.7% +8.4% +3.9% +1.7% +2.2%

*South Carolina data reflects 2016 research provided by South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT). 2017 South Carolina data will be released later in the year. 
**North Carolina population data is from the 2017 population estimates from the U.S. Census; South Carolina population data is from the 2016 population estimates from the U.S. Census.
***Tax Savings Per Resident was calcuated by the CRVA Research team. The Average MSA Tax Savings per Resident is calculated by taking the total state and local tax collections for the 10 counties in the MSA and dividing it by total population of those 10 counties. 

Tourism Impact in Mecklenburg County
Mecklenburg County led all North Carolina’s 100 counties in domestic travelers’ expenditures at nearly $5.4 billion, an increase of 4.2 percent since 2016. Mecklenburg County represents 22.4 percent of all domestic travelers’ expenditures in the state and is the No. 1 county in terms of travel spending. Visitor expenditures in Mecklenburg County are higher than visitor expenditures in all other tourism-centric destinations in the Carolinas. Visitors to Mecklenburg County spent nearly 2.5 times or $3.1 billion greater than Wake County-Raleigh ($2.27 billion), the second largest visitor economy in North Carolina; more than 4.5 times or $4.2 billion greater than Buncombe-Asheville ($1.14 billion); $3.1 billion greater than Charleston County-Charleston ($2.3 billion*) in South Carolina; and more than $1.4 billion more than Horry County-Myrtle Beach ($4 billion*) in South Carolina.

Visitor spending in Mecklenburg County has seen a steady rise the past several years, growing by 44 percent since 2010. Approximately 52,250 jobs in the tourism sector in Mecklenburg County are supported by visitor spending, representing the largest number of direct tourism employees in the state and the largest payroll of $1.9 billion, making it an important economic sector with a measurable impact on our community. The growth in visitor spending led to 1,480 new jobs in Mecklenburg County. State and local tax revenues from travel to Mecklenburg County totaled $387.6 million, representing a $360 tax savings for every county resident.

Tourism Impact in Charlotte Region
Visitor spending in the Charlotte MSA, which represents seven counties in North Carolina and three in South Carolina, increased by 4 percent and totaled $7 billion. Additionally, hotel data from STR, a research company that tracks supply and demand data on the global hotel industry, reported that  9.7 million hotel rooms were sold in the Charlotte region in 2017 (a 1.6 percent increase over 2016), generating more than $1.04 billion in hotel room revenue (a 5.1 percent increase over 2016). Jobs in the tourism sector in the Charlotte region increased 3 percent to 66,370 in 2017, up from 64,610 in 2016, and payroll income in 2017 totaled $2.25 billion. State and local tax revenues from travel to the Charlotte region totaled $519.2 million, representing a $208 tax savings for every resident in the Charlotte MSA.

Tourism Impact in North Carolina
At the state level, domestic visitors spent a record $23.99 billion in 2017 (an increase of 4.2 percent from 2016), directly supporting nearly 225,700 jobs and $6 billion in payroll income across North Carolina. State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending topped $1.2 billion in 2017 (an increase of 3.4 from percent 2016), and local tax revenues directly resulting from visitor spending totaled $738.6 million. Visitors spend more than $65 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds $5.38 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $3.36 million in state taxes and $2.02 million in local taxes). Each North Carolina household saves on average $515 in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state.

“North Carolina is a welcoming state and destination for travelers from across the world, and tourism continues to help drive economic development statewide,” said N.C. Secretary of Commerce Anthony M. Copeland. “Tourism creates jobs and increases state and local tax revenues, growing North Carolina’s economy across all 100 counties.”

Visit NC Executive Director Wit Tuttell added: “The continued growth in visitor spending is great for communities across our entire state. North Carolina’s continued position as the sixth most-visited state in the nation with more than 46 million visitors in 2017 reinforces its status as a premier tourism destination.”

These statistics are from the “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2017,” which can be accessed at partners.visitnc.com/economic-impact-studies. The study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by the U.S. Travel Association. The visitor spending study commissioned by Visit North Carolina is conducted by the U.S. Travel Association. The study uses sales and tax revenue data, employment figures and other industry and economic data to determine the overall impact of visitor spending in North Carolina.