Tourism spending in Forsyth County hits $754 million

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Attendance at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival Gala helped Forsyth County set a record for tourism spending. (Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez/Journal)

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Forsyth County set a third consecutive record for annual spending by tourists, with $753.8 million in 2013, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Tourism spending rose by 5.9 percent in 2013, spurred by higher hotel occupancy rates and room prices, among other things. The 2013 increase in tourism dollars follows spending increases of 3.4 percent, 10.5 percent and 9.2 percent in the past three years.

The county-by-county travel statistics are prepared annually for the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development.

Several collective factors have contributed to the uptick, including the well-attended National Black Theater festival in 2013 and more targeted and consistent marketing to visitors, said officials with the Forsyth County Tourism Development Authority, which oversees Visit Winston-Salem.

“The Division of Tourism’s study verifies that Winston-Salem’s strategic marketing and sales efforts are effectively connecting with our key audiences especially meeting and convention planners, sports tournament organizers and vacationers resulting in a positive influx of new visitor dollars,” said Richard Geiger, president of Visit Winston-Salem.

Forsyth County’s positive tourism trend mirrors the state’s, according to the report released Friday.

Tourism spending in North Carolina reached a record in 2013, with spending in the state by domestic visitors jumped to $20 billion, up 4 percent from the previous year. Tourism spending was up in 95 of the state’s 100 counties.

The annual study is commissioned by the division and conducted by the U.S. Travel Association. It uses sales and tax revenue, as well as employment figures, to determine overall visitor spending.

Besides tourist attractions, travel spending also is determined through recreation facility user fees; admissions at amusement parks and attractions; attendance at nightclubs, movies, sports events and other forms of entertainment and recreation. The report doesn’t provide a category breakdown by county of how the money was spent.

Tourism generated $124.5 million in payroll — up $7.1 million — for about 6,260 industry workers in Forsyth, an increase of 210 jobs. Visitors generated $43.5 million in state tax receipts (up $2.4 million) and $13.4 million in local tax receipts (up $600,000).

Forsyth County ranked sixth in the state for both tourism spending and growth from the previous year.

Visitor spending topped $1 billion in Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford counties and approached $1 billion in Dare and Buncombe counties.

Buncombe County was bolstered by an 8 percent increase in visitor spending, the highest percentage jump in the state. Burke (7.6 percent), Carteret (7.4 percent), Henderson (6.8 percent) and Wilkes (6.2 percent) round out the top-five counties with the most growth in tourism spending.

North Carolina ranks 10th in the nation for tourism spending, according to 2012 data from the U.S. Travel Association.

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