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North Carolina tourism jumped 45% last year, Cooper announces

North Carolina's tourism industry had a major rebound last year with $28.9 billion in visitor spending, just 1% short of the record set before the pandemic.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina tourism saw a huge increase last year, approaching pre-pandemic levels, Gov. Roy Cooper announced this month. 

Data from Visit North Carolina shows the state saw $28.9 billion in visitor spending in 2021, just 1% below the record set in 2019 and a 45% increase from 2020. 

"We know visitor spending helps fuel our economy in all 100 counties by sustaining local businesses, supporting thousands of jobs and bringing in tax revenue and that's why we've been working to encourage tourism," Cooper said in a release. "After being hit hard in 2020, tourism has bounced back as people around the world are again getting to see and experience the greatest state in the country."

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North Carolina's tourism workforce increased 10.5% to 197,500 jobs last year, state officials said. That reverses the trend of lost jobs the state suffered in 2020, but it's still 18% below the record number of jobs in 2019. Tourism generated $2.3 billion in tax revenue for state and local governments across North Carolina last year. 

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North Carolina tourism facts

  • International travelers spent $337 million, up 25.6% from the previous year. 
  • Visitors spend more than $79 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds $6.4 million per day to state and local tax revenues.
  • Visitor spending led to an average direct savings of $580 for each North Carolina household. 
  • Nearly 45 million people visited North Carolina in 2021. 

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