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Pender County’s tourism industry sees an increase in visitor spending, employment

BURGAW — Domestic and international visitors to and within Pender County spent $131.8 million in 2020, an increase of 8 percent from 2019. The data comes from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

“Despite COVID-19 shutdowns and challenges from the pandemic, visitor spending increased at a remarkable 8 percent,” said Tammy Proctor, Pender County tourism director. “Pender County was only one of 14 counties in the state to garner an increase in visitor spending.”

The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 934 in Pender County. This equates to a 2020 payroll of $34.9 million.

Pender County was one of only 20 counties statewide to see an increase in tourism-related employees.

“State tax revenue generated in Pender County totaled $5.1 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income,” said Proctor. “About $8.1 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 2020,” which can be accessed at The study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by Tourism Economics in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association.

Statewide, visitor spending was down 32 percent to $19.96 billion compared to 2019. Tourism employment fell 26 percent to 178,685. The losses were most acutely felt in urban areas.

“We are extremely gratified that tourism thrived in 20 counties in the face of pandemic shutdowns and other impediments to travel,” said Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell. “And despite the bad news for North Carolina as a whole, our ranking at No. 5 among states for visitation is a position of strength for rebuilding our tourism economy. Given the state’s resilience and vast appeal of its natural beauty, our creative cities and our authentic experiences at every turn, we’re confident that we’ll regain what has been lost and exceed the spending records of the recent past.”

“In Pender County, tourism is the second-leading industry,” said Proctor. “A healthy tourism industry is vital to our state and local economic health.”

Study highlights include:

  • Domestic and international travelers spent $19.96 billion in North Carolina in 2020. The spending marks a 32 percent decrease from the $29.22 billion spent in 2019.
  • Fourteen of the state’s 100 counties saw gains in visitor spending: Warren, Greene, Yancey, Clay, Stokes, Polk, Northampton, Pender, Ashe, Alleghany, Rutherford, Jones, Currituck, and Tyrrell.
  • Visitors to North Carolina generated nearly $3.0 billion in federal, state, and local taxes in 2020. The total represents a 26.6 percent decrease from 2019.
  • State tax receipts because of domestic visitor spending decreased 26.4 percent to more than $891.6 million in 2020.
  • Local tax receipts from domestic visitor spending dropped 21 percent to $906.4 million.
  • Direct tourism employment in North Carolina decreased 26 percent to 178,685.
  • Twenty counties had increases in employment related to visitor spending in 2020: Warren, Greene, Clay, Stokes, Ashe, Yancey, Alleghany, Pender, Macon, Northampton, Jones, Polk, Rutherford, Montgomery, Tyrrell, Dare, Carteret, Madison, Currituck, and Swain.
  • Direct tourism payroll decreased 24.5 percent to $6.4 billion.
  • Visitors spend more than $54 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds $4.9 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $2.4 million in state taxes and $2.5 million in local taxes).
  • Each North Carolina resident saves on average $170 in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state.
  • North Carolina hosted 37 million visitors in 2020.


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