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All counties see visitor spending boost

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By Julian Eure
Managing Editor

Friday, August 23, 2019

Visitor spending grew in every area county in 2018, boosting local government tax receipts and reducing the amount in overall taxes local residents pay.

Tourism-rich Dare County continued to enjoy the most visitor spending among area counties — and had the fifth-highest amount statewide — seeing $1.18 billion spent on travel and tourism in 2018, according to an annual US Travel Association study commissioned by Visit North Carolina. But several other area counties — Currituck and Camden — actually saw higher annual increases. Visitor spending increased by 5.61 percent in Currituck and by 5.49 percent in Camden, compared to 4.9 percent more in Dare.

Currituck reported the 23rd-highest visitor spending in the state in 2018, at $234.81 million. Camden, meanwhile, was 100th in visitor expenditures, with $2.21 million, according to the Visit NC study. Visit NC is a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

Elsewhere, Pasquotank County saw $65.65 million in visitor spending in 2018, up 4.76 percent from 2017. Chowan County saw $22.82 million in visitor spending, an increase of just over 2 percent, while Perquimans saw $11.14 million in visitor spending, a 2.58 percent increase. Pasquotank was 53rd in overall visitor expenditures in the state, while Chowan was 85th and Perquimans 94th, according to the Visit NC study.

Corrina Ferguson, executive director of Visit Elizabeth City, commented on the visitor spending in Pasquotank at Thursday’s meeting of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Tourism Development Authority.

“That’s $65 million in direct spending at our local businesses, at our places to stay, at our restaurants, at our local shops, at our museum, Ferguson said. “That’s crazy. That’s a lot of money from outside our area coming here.”

Noting other figures from the report, Ferguson said more than 500 people are now directly employed by the travel and tourism industry in Pasquotank.

“If we were a business, we’d be one of the biggest employers in the region,” she told TDA members.

Those Pasquotank workers generated a total payroll in 2018 of $10.69 million, Ferguson said.

Visitor spending also resulted in tax revenue increases for both the state and local governments, according to the Visit NC study. Visitor spending in Pasquotank generated $3.6 million for the state’s coffers through sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. It also generated another $1.5 million in sales and property tax revenue for Pasquotank County and the city of Elizabeth City.

Ferguson noted the local tax revenue didn’t include occupancy tax revenue, which is income the county and city receive from a 6 percent tax on hotel and motel stays.

Another significant figure in the Visit NC report is the amount each Pasquotank resident saved because of visitor spending, Ferguson said. According to the report, each resident saved $128 in taxes in 2018 because of the visitor spending. That’s up from $121 each county resident saved in taxes in 2017.

Ferguson also pointed out the upward trend in visitor spending in Pasquotank over time. In 2010, visitors spent $50.67 million in the county — roughly $15 million less than in 2018. The local payroll generated by the travel and tourism industry in 2010, meanwhile, was 7.76 million — about $3 million less than last year. And tax revenue to local government was $1.2 million — about $300,000 less.

In Currituck, County Manager Ben Stikeleather called tourism the “#1 economic driver” for his county.

“Currituck is fortunate to be blessed with an abundance of natural resources such as our waterways, the beaches of Corolla and Carova and the abundance of wildlife on our mainland that continue to draw visitors to our shores year after year,” he said in a press release Thursday.

The following is a breakdown of other area counties showing the number of people directly employed in travel and tourism, those workers’ total payroll, the impact of visitor spending on state and local tax revenues, and the tax savings realized per resident as a result of visitor spending:

Camden:

10 workers; $260,000 in payroll; $120,000 in state revenue; $180,000 in county revenue; and a tax savings of $29.06 per resident.

Currituck:

2,130 workers; $45.1 million in payroll; $11.3 million in state revenue; $13.9 million in county revenue; a tax savings of $903.47 per resident.

Chowan:

160 workers; $3.62 million in payroll; $1.1 million in state revenue; $1.45 million in county revenue; and a tax savings of $182.05 per resident.

Perquimans:

50 workers; $1.45 million in payroll; $460,000 in state revenue; $1.28 million in county revenue; and a tax savings of $126.08 per resident.

Statewide, visitors spent a record $25.3 billion in 2018, an increase of 5.6 percent from 2017, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce.

Visitor spending also generated nearly $1.3 billion in state revenues and $774.6 million in local tax revenues statewide, the department said. Visitor spending also directly supported 230,000 jobs and generated more than $6.3 billion in payroll income.

The three largest counties for visitor spending included the state’s largest: Mecklenburg, with $5.68 billion; Wake, with $2.40 billion, Guilford, with $1.49; and Buncombe, with $1.21 billion.

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