Special to Iredell Free News

Domestic and international visitors spent a whopping $326.18 million in Iredell County in 2021, representing an increase of 48.2 percent from 2020.

The data was included in an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

“What great news for all the communities in our amazing county,” said Cindy Sutton, executive director of the Statesville Convention & Visitors Bureau in Statesville.

According to Smith Travel Research Reporting, occupancy percentages in Statesville hotels were up by 11.8 percent over the previous fiscal year.

“Our primary goal is to increase the economic impact of the tourism industry by attracting business and leisure travelers to our community,” Sutton added. “We are proud to be the quintessential North Carolina community in the middle of one of the world’s most dynamic regions and know that our success would not be possible without the support of our amazing partners – the lodging, restaurants, retail stores, hot air balloonists and attractions that make our growing destination more and more desirable for new and repeat visitors.”

Tourism Impact

· The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 2,144 people in Iredell County.

· Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Iredell County is $79.3 million.

· State tax revenue generated in Iredell County totaled $13.7 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. About $11.8 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses.

These statistics come from the “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2021,” which can be accessed at partners.visitnc.com/economic-impact-studies. The study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by Tourism Economics in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association.

Across North Carolina visitor spending in 2021 rebounded by 44.9 percent to reach $28.9 billion.

Following the devastating pandemic-related losses of 2020, the total fell just short of the record $29.22 spent in 2019. Direct tourism employment increased 10.5 percent to 197,500.

“These findings are something that everyone in North Carolina can celebrate,” said Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell. “They’re a testament to the resilience of our businesses and our residents, and to the enduring appeal of destinations that include everything a traveler might want. The economic well-being of the state and all its communities rises with the pleasures travelers find in the natural beauty of our public spaces, our culinary traditions and innovation, our remarkable towns and our spirited cities. North Carolina can claim it all.”

Statewide Highlights

· Domestic travelers spent a record $28.6 billion in North Carolina in 2021. Spending was up 45.2 percent from $19.7 billion in 2020.

· International travelers spent $337 million in the state in 2021, up 25.6 percent from the previous year.

· Visitors to North Carolina generated $3.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2021. The total represents a 29 percent increase from 2020.

· State tax receipts from visitor spending rose 34 percent to nearly $1.2 billion in 2021.

· Local tax receipts grew 26 percent to $1.1 billion.

· Direct tourism payroll increased 18.9 percent to $7.7 billion.

· Visitors spent more than $79 million per day in North Carolina. That spending added $6.4 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $3.3 million in state taxes and $3.1 million in local taxes).

· Each North Carolina household saved $580 on average in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state. Savings per capita averaged $222.

· North Carolina hosted nearly 45 million visitors in 2021.