Breaking records: Wake County had 15.6 million visitors who spent $2.4 billion in 2016

Tourism is up in Wake County, breaking records for the number of visitors and the amount of money they spent last year.

Wake County had 15.6 million visitors in 2016 who spent $2.4 billion – the most the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau has ever reported.

Wake saw 3.5 percent more visitors spending 4.2 percent more than in 2015, according to data from the bureau.

The bureau contracted with two national travel and tourism research organizations, D.K. Shifflet & Associates and Tourism Economics, to estimate tourism statistics.

Tourism to the capital city area generated more than $242 million in state and local tax revenues last year, according to the bureau.

Area visitors saved each Wake County household $663, the bureau said. Tourism-generated tax receipts are used for education, school construction, water, sewer and other expenses, as well as amenities for residents.

If the revenue weren’t generated by visitors, taxpayers might have to pay more to keep up the current level of services and amenities in the county, the bureau said.

Hotel occupancy was up slightly – 0.2 percent – and average daily hotel rates were up 4.5 percent. Lodging tax collections totaled $24.2 million, up 8.4 percent year-over-year, and prepared food and beverage collections rose 6.5 percent in 2016, to $26.9 million.

“These numbers show that despite growing competition in the marketplace, Raleigh and Wake County continue to rise as a destination of choice amongst visitors,” said Denny Edwards, president and CEO of the GRCVB. “Tourism is a growing economic driver in the community, and the ‘visitor economy’ as we call it continues to thrive and support more jobs and generate more local tax revenue than ever before. Every sector of the hospitality community from our hotels and restaurants, attractions and retail stores benefit from the influx of outside money being spent in our area by visitors annually.”

Tourism continues to be one of the largest employment areas in Wake County, with above-average job growth and $715.3 million in labor income paid to local hospitality sector employees in 2016 as a result of area visitors. In 2016, 25,535 local jobs were sustained directly by visitation to the Raleigh area, according to the bureau.

“I’m proud of the strategic marketing and public relations campaigns as well aggressive meetings, conventions, youth and amateur sporting events and leisure sales initiatives of the GRCVB,” Edwards said. “With continued drive and focus, along with a collaborative approach amongst the public and private sector, I believe we can continue to grow the visitor economy, creating even more jobs and increasing the quality of life for all Wake County residents and visitors alike for years to come.”

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