Visitors spent $6.7 billion in Charlotte region in 2016, nearly $5.2 billion in Mecklenburg County

August 16, 2017

Visitor spending in Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte region hit record highs again in 2016. Mecklenburg County led all North Carolina's 100 counties in domestic travelers' expenditures at nearly $5.2 billion, and visitors across the Charlotte region spent more than $6.7 billion.

In 2016, the Charlotte region hosted approximately 27.8 million visitors, an increase of one million visitors from 2015, according to research firm Longwoods International. Visitor spending is fueling job growth in Charlotte. The leisure and hospitality industry (versus the tourism sector, which is specifically highlighted in the table below) in the Charlotte region grew by 5.7 percent year over year, a faster pace than total employment, which grew at 3.7 percent in 2016. The leisure and hospitality industry represents 1 in 9 or 131,300 jobs in the Charlotte region and is the fourth largest industry for employment according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hotel data reported by STR, a research company that tracks supply and demand data on the global hotel industry, shows that more than 9.6 million hotel rooms were sold in the Charlotte region in 2016 (a 3.3 percent increase over 2015), generating more than $993 million in hotel room revenue (a 7.9 percent increase over 2015).

"Charlotte's visitor economy has strengthened year after year,” says Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tom Murray. “2016 presented both challenges and opportunities for our city and state, and we have worked hard to recruit and host impactful events that continuously enhance our city’s quality of life. We wholeheartedly believe that visitor spending enriches our community for not only those who visit here but also for all who call this community home.”

Tourism Impact in Mecklenburg County
Visitor spending in Mecklenburg County increased by 2.4 percent in 2016, with visitors infusing nearly $5.2 billion in domestic spending. Mecklenburg County represents nearly 23 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 billion greater than Wake County-Raleigh ($2.2 billion), the second largest visitor economy in North Carolina; nearly five times or $4 billion greater than Buncombe-Asheville ($1.1 billion*); nearly 2.5 times or $3 billion greater than Charleston County-Charleston ($2.2 billion*) in South Carolina; and more than $1 billion more than Horry County-Myrtle Beach ($3.9 billion) in South Carolina. 

Visitor spending in Mecklenburg County has seen a steady rise the past several years, growing by 38.5 percent since 2010. More than 50,000 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 nearly $1.8 billion, making it an important economic sector with a measurable impact on our community. State and local tax revenues from travel to Mecklenburg County totaled $372 million, representing a $352.22 tax savings for every county resident. 

Tourism ​Impact in the Charlotte Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)
Visitor spending in the Charlotte region increased by 2.8 percent and totaled more than $6.7 billion. Jobs supported by visitor spending in the Charlotte region increased to 64,490 in 2016, up from 63,160 in 2015 (a 2.1 percent increase). The Charlotte region encompasses 10 counties total, seven in North Carolina and three in South Carolina, which are outlined in the Charlotte Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). See the table below for further detail on each county in the Charlotte MSA.


Expenditures (millions)   

Change from Previous   

Employment in tourism sector        

Payroll (millions)

State & Local Tax Collections (millions)

Tax Savings per Resident   

Cabarrus (NC)







Chester (SC)*







Gaston (NC)







Iredell (NC)







Lancaster (SC)*







Lincoln (NC)







Mecklenburg (NC)







Rowan (NC)







Union (NC)







York (SC)*







2016 Charlotte MSA TOTAL

$6,716.24 (billion)





(Average MSA)**

2015 Charlotte MSA TOTAL

$6,533.18 (billion)



$1,996.41 (billion)


(Average MSA)**

YOY Change







Tourism Impact in North Carolina
Statewide, domestic visitors spent a record $22.9 billion in 2016 (an increase of 4.4 percent from the previous year), directly supporting 219,094 jobs and nearly $5.6 billion in payroll income across North Carolina. 

"Tourism serves as a specialized economic development engine that fuels North Carolina's economy," said Tammy O'Kelley, chair of the NC Travel & Tourism Board and executive director of Randolph County TDA. "A positive tourism economy is critical to our state's overall economic health, and is made possible by our dedicated tourism partners who work hard every day to make sure that from the mountains, to the Piedmont and the coast, North Carolina remains a destination of choice for travelers from across the globe."

"North Carolina is an exceptionally beautiful state loved by residents and visitors," added Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit North Carolina. "North Carolina's position as the sixth most-visited state in the nation with more than 48 million visitors in 2016 reinforces its status as a premier tourism destination." 

The visitor spending figures come from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina and 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. Full tables can be accessed at

*South Carolina data reflects 2015 research provided by South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT).
**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 (2,454,856 according to the 2016 Population Estimates from the U.S. Census). 

About Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA)
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’ Coliseum, Ovens Auditorium, NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte Regional Film Commission and Visit Charlotte in conjunction with the region’s destination marketing brand, ‘Charlotte’s got a lot.' Find more information at