Pender County saw a slight decrease in overall tourism spending compared to 2015, according to 2016 tourism spending numbers released by the state this week.
Domestic visitors to and within Pender County spent $92.8 million in 2016, a 0.2 percent decrease from the $93 million spent in 2015, according to a release from Pender County officials.
Pender County was one of three counties in the state that saw dips last year.
County officials cited Hurricane Matthew, which struck the Cape Fear region in early October, as a reason for the decrease.
“We are disappointed to see any decrease in visitor spending from 2015 to 2016,” Tammy Proctor, director of Pender County Tourism, said in the release. “We know Hurricane Matthew impacted our numbers. In late September, we were tracking the storm. Then we dealt with horrific flooding that blocked access to and within Pender County.”
The tourism industry in Pender employed more than 810 people and generated a total payroll of about $16.4 million, according to the release. State tax revenue in Pender totaled $4.5 million through state sales and excise taxes and taxes on personal and corporate income.
Officials said an estimated $6.4 million in local taxes were generated in Pender County from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses.
Both New Hanover and Brunswick counties were in the top 10 counties in the state for visitor spending, at $554 million and $544 million, respectively.
Visitor spending in New Hanover County, which ranked No. 8, increased by 6.3 percent in 2016 from the previous year. The county generated about $27 million in state tax receipts in 2016, a 6.9 percent increase from last year. And in local tax, the county generated about $22 million.
“We are pleased to report that tourism spending and direct tourism employment for New Hanover County increased in 2016, representing our sixth consecutive record-breaking year,” said Kim Hufham, president and CEO of Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau, in a release. “We are further encouraged that New Hanover County Room Occupancy Tax [ROT] collections for fiscal year 2016/2017 also confirm record growth.”
Based on ROT reports for fiscal year July 2016 through June, countywide collections were up nearly 13 percent over the previous year, setting a new ROT record for the sixth year in a row, with more than $12.5 million in collections, Hufham said.
“When tourism revenues are up, it not only means more jobs and a better quality of life for our local citizens, it also means more money to fund beach renourishment, the Wilmington Convention Center and other tourism-related projects,” she added.
Brunswick County, which ranked ninth in the state for overall visitor spending last year, was also fifth in the state for largest-percent increases in visitor spending at 6.8 percent and fifth for the largest year-over-year increases in direct tourism employment at 5.8 percent, according to the state’s report. The county generated $25 million in state tax receipts and $33 million in local tax receipts, each at more than a 7 percent increase from 2015.
A total of 97 out of the state’s 100 counties saw increases in visitor spending in 2016.
Domestic visitors spent a record $22.9 billion statewide in 2016, an increase of 4.4 percent from the previous year. State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending neared $1.2 billion in 2016, and local tax revenues directly resulting from visitor spending totaled more than $693 million. Visitor expenditures directly supported about 219,000 jobs and generated nearly $5.6 billion in payroll income across North Carolina, according to the state.