NORTH CAROLINA —Although numbers aren’t finalized for 2019, all signs are pointing to it being another record-breaking year for North Carolina tourism.
In 2018, the North Carolina Travel and Tourism Board reported an all-time high in visitor spending, with an estimated $25.3 billion. This was a 5.6% increase over the previous year, supporting over 230,000 North Carolinian jobs — also a record.
Through the third quarter, lodging and revenue were on track to top 2018’s record numbers. Revenues were up in almost every month of 2019, with the southeast region of the state, including the popular Wilmington area, having the largest growth. Lodging numbers, according to Marlise Taylor, director of tourism research, “have seen tremendous growth and are at record numbers — reaching more than $1.9 billion year-to-date through June 2019.” The first half of 2019 saw increases in lodging each month. Fall travel statistics showed a weakening in lodging numbers, but 2019 is still poised to be an overall improvement from 2018.
Through October, statewide hotel occupancy was up 2.2% over 2018, while national hotel occupancy was flat when compared to 2018. Hotel revenues were up 5.1% for the year compared to 2018.
The “Firsts that Last” campaign, launched in 2018 by Visit NC, has seen success as it documents stories from real visitors to the state experiencing their first waterfalls, moonshine or trip to the ocean. The campaign was named a Mercury Award finalist by the U.S. Travel Association, alongside Oregon and Michigan — states with much larger marketing budgets.
Another sign that North Carolina’s place as a global tourism destination continues to grow is that Visit NC’s efforts overseas are also seeing results. In a poll of Chinese travelers, North Carolina was named the 14th best “international travel destination” on WeChat, a popular Chinese social media site.