2021 Visitor Impact for Mecklenburg County

Spending in the County Increased by 46 Percent to Nearly $4.1 Billion

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County once again led all North Carolina counties in visitor spending, with domestic and international visitors contributing over $4.1 billion to the local economy in 2021, an increase of 46 percent from 2020. Visitor spending takes into account impacts from lodging, food and beverage, recreation, retail and both ground and air transportation. The data comes from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

“This illustrates the region’s strong appeal as a tourist destination,” said Tom Murray, Chief Executive Officer of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA). “Our diverse offerings and genuine hospitality continue to draw visitors to our community, which is good for our local economy. The 46 percent increase is incredibly promising for an industry that was hit the hardest by the pandemic. With 147,900 people in Mecklenburg County employed in the leisure and hospitality sector, the ongoing recovery of the visitor economy is critically important as an economic driver of revenue and jobs for our local businesses and their employees.”

Tourism impact highlights for 2021

  • Mecklenburg County ranked #1 in visitor spending, capturing 14.1% of the total visitor spend in the state.
  • The six additional NC counties included in the Charlotte MSA (Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Rowan and Union), saw visitor spending collectively total $1.5 billion.
  • Combined, the seven NC counties in the Charlotte MSA captured $5.6 billion or 19.4% of the state’s total visitor spend. (The remaining three SC counties in the Charlotte MSA have not yet reported visitor spending data.)
  • The travel and tourism industry directly employs an estimated 147,900in Mecklenburg County, the highest in North Carolina.
  • Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Mecklenburg County was $1.46 million.
  • State tax revenue generated in Mecklenburg County totaled $164 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. About $155.4 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses.
  • Tax revenue from visitor spending in Mecklenburg County created a tax savings of roughly $280 per resident.

The 2021 data comes from the “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2021,” which can be accessed at The study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by Tourism Economics in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association.

Statewide, visitor spending in 2021 rebounded by 44.9 percent to reach $28.9 billion. Following the devastating pandemic-related losses of 2020, the total fell just short of the record $29.22 spent in 2019. Direct tourism employment increased 10.5 percent to 197,500.

“These findings are something that everyone in North Carolina can celebrate,” said Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell. “They’re a testament to the resilience of our businesses and our residents, and to the enduring appeal of destinations that include everything a traveler might want. The economic well-being of the state and all its communities rises with the pleasures travelers find in the natural beauty of our public spaces, our culinary traditions and innovation, our remarkable towns and our spirited cities. North Carolina can claim it all.”

Other statewide highlights include:

  • Total spending by domestic and international visitors in North Carolina reached $28.9 billion in 2021. That sum represents a 44.9 percent increase over 2020 expenditures. The figure falls 1 percent below the record $29.22 billion spent in 2019.
  • Domestic travelers spent a record $28.6 billion in 2021. Spending was up 45.2 percent from $19.7 billion in 2020.
  • International travelers spent $337 million in 2021, up 25.6 percent from the previous year.
  • Visitors to North Carolina generated $3.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2021. The total represents a 29 percent increase from 2020.
  • State tax receipts from visitor spending rose 34 percent to nearly $1.2 billion in 2021.
  • Local tax receipts grew 26 percent to $1.1 billion.
  • Direct tourism employment in North Carolina increased 10.5 percent to 197,500.
  • Direct tourism payroll increased 18.9 percent to $7.7 billion.
  • Visitors spent more than $79 million per day in North Carolina. That spending added $6.4 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $3.3 million in state taxes and $3.1 million in local taxes).
  • Each North Carolina household saved $580 on average in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state. Savings per capita averaged $222.
  • North Carolina hosted nearly 45 million visitors in 2021.