NC extends visitor spending record, rises to No. 5 in US visitation

RALEIGH, NC (May 21, 2024) — Governor Roy Cooper announced today that the North Carolina tourism economy reached its highest level ever with travelers spending more than $35.6 billion on trips to and within the state. The previous record of $33.3 billion was set in 2022.

“We’re excited that North Carolina continues to be a top 5 state for visitors from around the world,” Governor Cooper said. “Our investments in tourism are paying dividends for our visitors experiencing the great things across North Carolina and for the great jobs it brings across the state.”

Governor Cooper’s announcement coincides with National Travel and Tourism Week (May 19-25), when travel and tourism professionals across the country unite to underscore the value of travel to the economy, businesses, communities and personal well-being. The state’s Welcome Centers will host activities throughout the week.

The state’s tourism-supported workforce increased 4.8 percent to 227,200 jobs in 2023.  Tourism payroll increased 6.6 percent to $9.3 billion. Also, as a result of visitor spending, state and local governments saw rebounds in tax revenues to nearly $2.6 billion. 

The figures are preliminary findings from research commissioned by Visit North Carolina, part of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, and conducted by Tourism Economics. In measuring the economic value of the travel sector, the research incorporates a broad range of data sources to ensure that the entire visitor economy is quantified in detail. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, OmniTrak visitor profiles, the U.S. Census, STR, AirDNA and KeyData lodging reports and the NC Department of Revenue are among the sources included in this comprehensive model. More information about the study can be found online at, which also links to archived reports dating back to 2005.

With nearly 43 million visitors from across the United States, North Carolina ranks No. 5 behind California, Florida, Texas and New York in domestic visitation. The past four years have seen tight competition with Pennsylvania and Tennessee for fifth place. In addition to 2023’s record spending by domestic travelers, North Carolina also saw gains in the international market. With nearly 700,000 international travelers, spending rose 9.5 percent to $997 million.

“North Carolina residents in all 100 counties benefit from the money visitors spend on pursuits from our smallest towns to our largest cities,” said NC Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “Tourism means jobs for more than 50,000 small businesses and our first-in-talent workforce. These workers meet travelers’ needs for transportation as well as lodging, dining, shopping and recreation.”

Secretary Sanders notes that as a result of travelers’ contributions to state and local tax revenue, North Carolina households average $518 in yearly savings. 

NC tourism facts:

  • Total spending by domestic and international visitors in North Carolina reached $35.6 billion in 2023. That sum represents a 6.9 percent increase over 2022 expenditures. 
  • Domestic travelers spent a record $34.6 billion in 2023. Spending was up 6.8 percent from $32.4 billion in 2022. 
  • International travelers spent $997 million in 2023, up 9.5 percent from the previous year. 
  • Visitors to North Carolina generated nearly $4.5 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2023. The total represents a 5.8 percent increase from 2022. 
  • State tax receipts from visitor spending rose 5.6 percent to $1.3 billion in 2023. 
  • Local tax receipts grew 5.4 percent to $1.2 billion.
  • Direct tourism employment in North Carolina increased 4.8 percent to 227,200. 
  • Direct tourism payroll increased 6.6 percent to nearly $9.3 billion. 
  • Visitors spend more than $97 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds $7.1 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $3.7 million in state taxes and $3.4 million in local taxes). 
  • Each North Carolina household saved $518 on average in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state. Savings per capita averaged $239.

About Visit North Carolina: 
Visit NC, the state’s official destination marketing organization, is part of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, a private nonprofit corporation that serves as North Carolina’s economic development organization. The EDPNC focuses on business and job recruitment, existing industry support, international trade, tourism and film marketing.

The mission of Visit NC is to unify and lead the state in positioning North Carolina as a preferred destination for leisure travel, group tours, meetings and conventions, sports events and film production. Each year, North Carolina welcomes about 43 million visitors who spend nearly $36 billion during their stay. The tourism industry employs more than 227,000 people and generates nearly $2.6 billion in state and local tax revenues. For travel ideas and inspiration, go to



Veda Gilbert ǀ Suzanne Brown

Suzanne Brown
Media Relations Manager
Veda Gilbert
Public Relations Manager
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