Visitors spent over $2 billion in southeastern N.C. in 2022
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Visitors spent over $2 billion in southeastern N.C. counties in 2022, according to the latest Visit North Carolina economic impact report.
Spending was highest in New Hanover and Brunswick counties, which had $1.06 billion and $1.09 billion respectively. Pender County had $189.66 million, Columbus County had $60.71 million and Bladen County had $51.57 million.
New Hanover and Brunswick counties also took the seventh and sixth spots respectively on the list of highest visitor spending by county in N.C.
“This increase in visitor spending is a welcome sign that tourism in our destination continues to grow,” said Kim Hufham, president/CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority. “During calendar year 2022, countywide room occupancy tax collections totaled more than $23.4 million dollars, an increase of 10.67% over the previous ROT benchmark set in 2021. Our community benefits from visitor spending through job creation and a room tax base that helps fund beach renourishment, the Wilmington Convention Center, ocean safety programs, and other tourism-related projects. Additionally, travel-generated state and local tax revenues help offset the tax burden of local citizens.”
While Hufham believes inflation and rising costs played a role in the increased spending, she says hotels in New Hanover County also saw an increase in occupancy.
“We get some reports from some of our hotels, more of our chain hotels type things here in Wilmington,” Hufham said. “And we’re seeing our occupancy level us actually up, you know, four or five percent. So, we know that all of that 13%, like you’re saying, it’s not necessarily 13% more visitors, but we do know it is a combination of room rates being a little higher than they might have been and again, you know, the occupancy as well.”
She says 2023 is already showing a positive trend, and hopes that will continue beyond the summer.
“Our goal is to, you know, as we say, put heads and beds. That is what we’re here for. That’s what we want to see happen. And you know, these numbers indicate that that’s what’s going on,” said Hufham. “Not only do we have over a billion dollars in tourism expenditures, but we just closed out fiscal year 22-23 and our room occupancy tax collections for the highest ever at over $23 million.”
You can learn more about the study on the Visit NC website.
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