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North Carolina Tourism Numbers Rise along with Industry Employment

VisitNC recently released the 2022 economic impact measures for the state’s tourism industry. Travelers spent more than $33.3 billion on trips to and within the state, topping the previous record of $29.22 billion set in pre-pandemic 2019.

“The record setting level of visitor spending in NC points to a need to continually evaluate and advance the sustainability of tourism across the state,” commented Whitney Knollenberg, associate professor of parks, recreation and tourism management at NC State. “So many of our communities from the mountains to the coast continue to rely on the economic benefits of tourism – like jobs and taxes – we need to ensure the industry stays resilient and its positive impacts are felt by all.”

In compiling fast facts for her students and colleagues, Knollenberg highlighted the following:

  • Record setting total spending by domestic and international visitors in North Carolina reached $33.3 billion in 2022.That sum represents a 15.2 percent increase over 2021 expenditures
  • Direct tourism employment in North Carolina increased 9.8 percent to 216,900
  • Visitors spend more than $91 million per day in North Carolina
  • North Carolina hosted approximately 43 million visitors in 2022 making it the 6th most visited state in the nation.

Behind the numbers with PRTM alums

The VisitNC team behind the numbers includes PRTM alums, Marlise Taylor, director of tourism research and Ashton English, research data specialist . Taylor received her bachelor’s and master’s degree from the department of parks, recreation and tourism focusing on tourism management and tourism research.

“I’ve been with the tourism office since 2005, and couldn’t ask for a better career that allows me to support the state that I love and ultimately help to support thousands of jobs and businesses throughout NC,” said Taylor. ” Our entire team works tirelessly to promote and support tourism efforts in all 100 counties in NC.”

English earned a bachelor’s degree in PRTM in 2021 with a focus on program management and did a study with Knollenberg on an agritourism project during her time at NC State. She is currently working on her master’s degree in strategic and digital communication at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“I’ve been with the tourism office since 2022 and couldn’t ask for a more supportive team as I start my career,” said English. “I take pride in being a North Carolina native and loving giving back to the state.”

NC Tourism Investments and Increases

North Carolina has invested hundreds of millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan into helping the tourism industry to recover and thrive following the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether funding Business Recovery Grants, the Moonshine to Motorsports Trail, or investing in Tourism Marketing, the state is committed to supporting the tourism industry’s return to record-breaking heights.

The state’s tourism-supported workforce increased 9.8 percent to 216,900 jobs in 2022. That figure reverses the more than 26 percent loss in employment suffered in 2020. Tourism payroll increased 13.5 percent to $8.7 billion. Also, as a result of visitor spending, state and local governments saw rebounds in tax revenues to nearly $2.5 billion. The figures are preliminary findings from research commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, and conducted by Tourism Economics. More information about the study can be found online at, which also links to archived reports dating back to 2005.