Figures show Wake County welcomed nearly 18 million visitors who spent nearly $3 billion and generated more than $284 million in state and local tax revenues

Raleigh, N.C. (Aug. 26, 2020) – A report released today by the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh) revealed that Wake County welcomed 17.9 million visitors in 2019, a 6% increase over 2018. These nearly 18 million visitors who traveled to Wake County spent $2.9 billion in our community, a 7.5% increase over 2018. Both the visitation and visitor spending figures are all-time record highs for Wake County. Visit Raleigh independently contracted with industry-leading travel and tourism research firm Tourism Economics to estimate these and other key tourism figures.

2019 Visitor Volume & Spending

Visitor Spending:
Most visitor spending is attributed to food and beverage sales, accounting for $754 million. This was followed immediately by lodging spending at more than $681 million in 2019.

2019 Visitor Spending

Tax Revenue:
As a result of the overall $2.9 billion in visitor spending, more than $284 million in state and local tax revenues were generated by visitors in Wake County in 2019 as well. Tourism-generated tax receipts are used for education, school construction, water, sewer and other necessities as well as quality-of-life amenities for residents. In fact, the research showed each household in Wake County would pay an additional $727 in taxes without the funds provided to local and state governments through travel and tourism – showcasing just how valuable tourism is to the local economy.

Two visitor-related taxes, the hotel occupancy and prepared food and beverage taxes both saw record collections in 2019. Hotel occupancy tax collections totaled $30.6 million (up 9.7% over 2018) and prepared food and beverage tax collections totaled more than $32.5 million (up 8.4% over 2018).

According to the research, tourism created work for 28,045 people in Wake County with a payroll of $836 million in 2019. Specifically, the entire lodging industry, as well as 41% of the recreation industry, and 21% of food and beverage industry employment throughout Wake County is driven by visitors alone, not locals/residents. In many cases, the visitor customer can make the difference allowing our small businesses to stay open.

Also, within Wake County, tourism employment overall has consistently outpaced overall county employment. Since 2010, overall employment in Wake County has registered 33.5% growth while tourism employment has grown 41%. The tourism industry has added more than 870 jobs per year on average, since 2010, an expansion of 3.7% per year.

“In 2019, we put more than 28,000 people to work across Wake County. However, no industry has been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than the hospitality sector,” said Dennis Edwards, President and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh). “This research shows just how much the health of our community’s economy depends on a strong travel economy.”

Edwards went on to add, “We need to implement our plan for the future, the next normal. Therefore, our role now is to educate potential visitors on all the health measures our local hospitality industry is implementing to keep them safe, while also inspiring them to revisit the Raleigh area once again.”

Below are the high-level figures contained in the report. The full report can be found at

2019 KPIs

About the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh):
As the official destination marketing organization for Wake County, the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh), is responsible for promoting Wake County as an attractive travel destination and enhancing its public image as a dynamic place to live and work. Through the impact of travel, the organization strengthens the economic position of and provide opportunity for people throughout Wake County. Raleigh, N.C./Wake County welcomes nearly 18 million visitors annually whose spending tops $2.9 billion. The visitor economy supports more than 28,000 local jobs in Wake County and generates $284 million in state and local tax revenues, saving each Wake County household $727 in taxes annually.

Media Contact:
Scott Peacock

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