2019 visitor spending hits a record $7.8 billion in Charlotte region, nearly $6 billion in Mecklenburg County

Published: 
September 24, 2020

Charlotte region sees tenth year of consecutive growth, with an 82% increase since 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 24, 2020) – In a tenth consecutive year of growth, visitor spending in both the Charlotte region and Mecklenburg County hit record highs in 2019, once again surpassing all other destinations in the Carolinas. The Charlotte region hosted approximately 29.6 million visitors, an increase of 400,000 visitors from 2018, according to research firm Longwoods International.

“The Charlotte region’s 10-year growth, leading the state in visitor spending, is significant. Our $7.8 billion visitor economy fuels critical areas such as building transportation assets, raising the destination profile, attracting strategic events and enhancing quality of life,” said Tom Murray, Chief Executive Officer of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “One in 9 people are employed in the hospitality industry in our community. Hospitality and leisure is the fourth largest industry in the region, providing more than 147,000 jobs, and visitor spending directly supports nearly half of those jobs. Recovery of the tourism industry is critically important to support so many of our local businesses, get residents back to work and help rebuild the region’s economic strength.”

Key takeaways for the Charlotte region and Mecklenburg County from the 2019 Economic Impact of Domestic Travel report released by Visit North Carolina include:

  • Visitor spending in the Charlotte Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which represents seven counties in North Carolina and three in South Carolina, increased by 5.2 percent and totaled $7.78 billion.
  • Mecklenburg County led all North Carolina's 100 counties in domestic travelers' expenditures at nearly $6 billion, an increase of 5.6 percent over 2018. Mecklenburg County represents 26.9 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 have demonstrated 10 consecutive years of growth with an 82% increase since 2009, and are higher than visitor expenditures in all other tourism-centric destination in the Carolinas.
  • Visitors to Mecklenburg County spent nearly $3.4 billion more than visitors to Wake County-Raleigh ($2.6 billion), the second largest visitor economy in North Carolina, and $4.7 billion more than those to Buncombe-Asheville ($1.29 billion).
  • State and local tax revenues generated from travel to Mecklenburg County totaled $425.7 million, representing an estimated annual tax savings of $383 for every resident in the county.

See below for the full breakdown of the most recent visitor spending data in North Carolina counties (2019) and South Carolina counties (2018) in the Charlotte Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).  

County

Visitor Spending (millions)

Employment  

Payroll (millions)

State & Local
Tax Collections (millions)

Population**   

Tax Savings per Resident***

Mecklenburg

$5,998.35

54,530

$2,124.59

$425.73

1,110,356

$383.42

Cabarrus

$478.16

4,660

$113.69

$35.27

216,453

$162.95

Gaston

$291.94

2,080

$49.14

$21.27

224,529

$94.73

Iredell

$281.29

2,030

$46.53

$23.86

181,806

$131.24

Rowan

$199.05

1,530

$34.33

$16.84

142,088

$118.52

Union

$152.37

1,110

$25.56

$11.06

239,859

$46.11

Lincoln

$61.49

400

$10.24

$5.20

86,111

$60.39

York*

$258.45

1,670

$44.90

$23.61

274,118

$86.13

Lancaster*

$34.33

200

$5.41

$6.05

95,380

$32.61

Chester*

$25.19

150

$3.99

$2.13

32,521

$65.50

2019 Total Charlotte MSA

$7,780.62

68,360

$2,458.38

$571.02

2,603,221

$218.22
(Average MSA)

2018 Total Charlotte MSA

$7,393.22

67,710

$2,360,91

$544.80

2,558,754

$212.92
(Average MSA)

YOY Percent Change

+5.2%

+2.1%

+4.1%

+4.8%

+1.7%

+2.5%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*South Carolina data reflects 2018 research provided by South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT). 2019 South Carolina data will be released later in the year.
**North Carolina population data is from the 2019 population estimates from the U.S. Census; South Carolina population data is from the 2018 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.

Beyond the Charlotte region, domestic visitors to North Carolina spent a record $26.75 billion in 2019 (an increase of 5.6 percent from 2018), directly supporting more than 236,000 jobs and $6.6 billion in payroll income across the state. State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending topped $1.3 billion in 2019 (an increase of 5 percent from 2018), and local tax revenues directly resulting from visitor spending totaled $811.5 million.

“The numbers confirm the strength of North Carolina’s tourism industry as an anchor of economic development,” said Wit Tuttell, director of Visit North Carolina. “As the No. 6 state in the country for overnight visitation, we can attribute our success to the natural beauty and authenticity that visitors experience, and to a passionate effort to inform and inspire travelers. The money they spend benefits everyone by sustaining jobs and reducing our residents’ tax burden.”

Methodology
These statistics are from the “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2019,” 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.