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County tourism spending rose in 2012, report says

Henderson County saw a 4.3 percent increase in tourism spending in 2012 over the previous year, the state Commerce Department said.

The figures showed that Henderson County rang up $218.4 million worth of visitor spending and had a $37.8 million payroll for 1,960 workers employed in the tourism industry.
The figures came in a report issued Monday by Gov. Pat McCrory and Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker showing that all 100 N.C. counties saw increases in visitor spending in 2012. Data from the North Carolina Department of Commerce's Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development showed that three counties (Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford) had more than $1 billion in visitor spending in 2012 while Dare, Buncombe, Forsyth and Durham all had more than $500 million in spending.
Buncombe County had $834.2 million worth of spending for a 6.5 percent gain while Polk's spending of $22.6 million was up 4 percent and Transylvania's total of $80.9 million was up 4.7 percent.
Domestic visitors to and within North Carolina spent a record $19.4 billion in 2012, an increase of 5 percent from 2011, the state report said. State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending neared $1 billion in 2012 and local tax revenues directly resulting from visitor spending totaled more than $579 million. Visitor expenditures directly generated 193,610 jobs and more than $4.3 billion in payroll income within North Carolina in 2012.
"Tourism is a key tenet of our economic development strategy for North Carolina, and it means jobs for our citizens - nearly 200,000 of them across North Carolina," McCrory said in a news release. "It's encouraging that every corner of North Carolina is benefitting from tourism. More than 45 million people experienced our state's beauty, from our famous mountains to our incredible coast and our vibrant cities and fascinating towns in between."

The visitor spending figures come from an annual study commissioned by the Division of Tourism and conducted by the U.S. Travel Association. The study uses sales and tax revenue data plus employment figures to determine the overall impact of visitor spending in North Carolina. Highlights include:

• Mecklenburg County received more than $4.4 billion in domestic travelers' expenditures, tops in the state. Wake County ranked second with nearly $1.8 billion, followed by Guilford County with nearly $1.2 billion.

• Currituck and New Hanover Counties had the largest percentage increases at 8.1 percent and 8.0 percent respectively. Macon County followed with a 7.6 percent increase, followed by Union (+7.3 percent), Warren (+7.0 percent) and Mecklenburg (+7.0 percent).

• Mecklenburg County directly employs the most tourism employees with more than 45,000 and has the largest payroll at $1.4 billion. Wake (19,710), Guilford (12,190) and Dare (11,590) each have more than 10,000 direct tourism employees.

• The same counties that led growth in visitor spending also had the largest increases in direct tourism employment from 2011 to 2012. They were Currituck (+5.4 percent), New Hanover (+5.0 percent), Macon (+4.6 percent), Union (+4.5 percent), Warren (+4.3 percent) and Mecklenburg (+4.3 percent).