2018 visitor spending hits a record $7.4 billion in Charlotte region, nearly $5.7 billion in Mecklenburg County

September 5, 2019

The economic impact of tourism in Charlotte region increased 5.6 percent in 2018

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 5, 2019) – Visitor spending hit record highs again in Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte region in 2018, continuing to surpass all other tourism-centric destinations in the Carolinas. In 2018, the Charlotte region hosted approximately 29.2 million visitors, an increase of 900,000 from 2017, 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 140,800 jobs and is the fourth largest industry in the Charlotte region, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

"These impressive results show the vital purpose tourism serves for Charlotte and our entire region, " says Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tom Murray. "Tourism has a profound impact on our entire community’s quality of life, and we are committed to growing Charlotte’s share of the visitor economy in support of the 1 in 9 people who are employed in this hospitality sector.”

The table below shows in detail the breakdown of the most recent visitor spending data in North Carolina counties (2018) and South Carolina counties (2017) in the Charlotte region, defined here as the Charlotte Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The employment directly supported by visitor spending is also highlighted.


Visitor Spending (millions)


Payroll (millions)

State & Local
Tax Collections (millions)


Tax Savings by Resident***







































































2018 Total Charlotte MSA






(Average MSA)

2017 Total Charlotte MSA






(Average MSA)

YOY Percent Change







*South Carolina data reflects 2017 research provided by South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT). 2018 South Carolina data will be released later in the year. 
**North Carolina population data is from the 2018 population estimates from the U.S. Census; South Carolina population data is from the 2017 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 $5.7 billion, an increase of 5.6 percent over 2017. Mecklenburg County represents 22.4 percent of all domestic travelers' expenditures in the state and is the number one 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 $3.3 billion greater than Wake County-Raleigh ($2.4 billion), the second largest visitor economy in North Carolina and more than 4.6 times or $4.46 billion greater than Buncombe-Asheville ($1.21 billion). 

Approximately 53,300 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 $2 billion, making it an important economic sector with a measurable impact on our community. The growth in visitor spending led to 1,050 new jobs in Mecklenburg County. State and local tax revenues from travel to Mecklenburg County totaled $406.03 million, representing a $371.18 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 5.6 percent and totaled $7.39 billion. Jobs in the tourism sector in the Charlotte region increased 2 percent in 2018 to 67,710, up from 66,370 in 2017, and payroll income in 2018 totaled $2.36 billion. State and local tax revenues from travel to the Charlotte region totaled $544.80 million, representing a $212.92 tax savings for every resident in the Charlotte MSA. 

Tourism Impact in North Carolina
At the state level, domestic visitors spent a record $25.32 billion in 2018 (an increase of 5.6 percent from 2017), directly supporting nearly 230,300 jobs and $6.3 billion in payroll income across North Carolina. State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending topped $1.3 billion in 2018 (an increase of 4.7 percent from 2017), and local tax revenues directly resulting from visitor spending totaled $774.6 million. Visitors spend more than $69 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds $5.6 million per day to state and local tax revenues. Each North Carolina household saves on average $532 in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state.  

"North Carolina's tourism industry set a new record last year in visitor spending despite the effects of the storms," said Governor Cooper. "This is a testament to the lasting beauty of our state and the determination of our people."
Noting that North Carolina ranks sixth in the nation for overnight visitation, Visit NC Executive Director Wit Tuttell said the spending growth in all 100 counties confirmed the appeal of the state's destinations. "There's a lot of competition for travelers' time and money," Tuttell said. "But people come to North Carolina when they know about the state's natural beauty, our residents' welcoming spirit, and the irresistible mix of tradition and innovation."

These statistics are from the “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2018,” 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. 

About the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) works to deliver experiences that uniquely enrich the lives of our visitors and residents. Through leadership in destination development, marketing and venue management expertise, the CRVA leads efforts to maximize the region’s economic potential through visitor spending, creating jobs and opportunities for the community. Brands supported by the CRVA include the Charlotte Convention Center, Spectrum Center, Bojangles’ Entertainment Complex, NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte Regional Film Commission and Visit Charlotte in conjunction with the region’s destination marketing brand. Find more information at crva.com.