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Despite Flo, Visitor Spending Reached New Heights In 2018, Study Shows

By Cece Nunn, posted Aug 15, 2019
The above image from the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher is one of the images local tourism officials used earlier this year in a campaign to appeal to potential visitors post-Hurricane Florence. (File)
Visitor spending in the Cape Fear region soared to its highest heights in 28 years during 2018, despite Hurricane Florence shutting the area down for several days in September, according to an announcement Thursday from Gov. Roy Cooper.

Brunswick County's year-over-year visitor spending total rose by the highest percentage in the tri-county region, 6.48% compared to last year, to nearly $599 million, the state's annual visitor impact study showed. Spending rose 6% to $612 million in New Hanover County and was up nearly 5%, to $101.7 million, in Pender County.

Officials said Thursday's news was particularly welcome in Pender County, which got the worst of the flooding caused by Hurricane Florence in the Cape Fear region.

“We have experienced consistent and steady growth, a trend that impacts our local economy in a positive manner," said Tammy Proctor, Pender County tourism director, in a news release.
 
Cooper had announced in May that visitors to North Carolina set a record for spending in 2018, Proctor noted in the release. The $25.3 billion in total spending represented an increase of 5.6% from 2017.

The local statistics showed growth in all of the state's 100 counties, according to a state news release.
 
“There’s a lot of competition for travelers’ time and money,” said Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit NC, in the state release. “But people come to North Carolina when they know about the state’s natural beauty, our residents’ welcoming spirit, and the irresistible mix of tradition and innovation.”

While the state's overall spending for the prior year is released in the spring, county-level statistics are not released until late summer/early fall, according to the study's page on Visit NC's website.

Visitor spending has an impact beyond the hospitality and tourism industry in the area, Proctor said.
 
“We believe good tourism is good economic development,” she said in the release. “Every relocated business starts as a visitor.”
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