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North Carolina tourism 5th nationally

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(The Center Square) – North Carolina had a record year for tourism in 2023, the state announced Tuesday.

Tourists spent $35.6 billion, topping the previous record of $33.3 billion, according to the governor’s office.

North Carolina ranked fifth nationally as a tourist destination for U.S. travelers, trailing only California, Florida, Texas and New York.

“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,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement.

Taxpayers benefit from the tourism growth, the state said. Visitors generated nearly $4.5 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2023, a 5.8% increase over 2022.

There were 227,200 jobs in 2023, an increase of 4.8%, the state said.

“Each North Carolina household saved $518 on average in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state,” a release said.

Among the state’s top tourist destinations are the Outer Banks, Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Asheville. More than 1 million people each year visit the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, which was the home of George Washington Vanderbilt and is still owned by his descendants.

According to the group Visit North Carolina, the top five counties in the state in terms of tourists spending were Mecklenburg, Wake, Buncombe, Dare and Guilford.

Exact amounts by county for 2023 are not yet available, the group’s spokeswoman, Suzanne Brown, told The Center Square.

“The 2023 figures won’t arrive until August, but these five counties also topped the list in this order in 2020 and 2021,” she said. “We do not have the visitor count for individual destinations.”

In addition to domestic travelers, North Carolina also had nearly 700,000 international travelers in 2023 and spending by those visitors increased 9.5% to $997 million, the state said.

“North Carolina residents in all 100 counties benefit from the money visitors spend on pursuits from our smallest towns to our largest cities,” Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders said in a statement “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.”

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