Raleigh, N.C. (July, 11, 2016) - Wake County's tourism industry welcomed 15.1 million visitors in 2015, an increase of 5.7 percent over 2014. The 15.1 million visitors who traveled to Wake County spent $2.33 billion, an increase of 5.5 percent over 2014. Both the number of visitors and the visitor spending figure are the highest that the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau has ever reported.

The GRCVB independently contracted with two nationally respected travel and tourism research organizations, D.K. Shifflet & Associates and Tourism Economics, to estimate key tourism statistics.

Tourism to the capital city area generated more than $219 million in state and local sales tax revenues last year. By generating these revenues, area visitation saved each Wake County household more than $627. Tourism-generated tax receipts are used for education, school construction, water, sewer and other necessities as well as quality-of-life amenities for residents. If these tax revenues were not generated by visitors, local taxpayers would need to provide the same funding if the current level of service and amenities in Wake County were to be maintained.

Wake County set records across all key performance indicators throughout 2015, including an average hotel occupancy rate of 70 percent (a year-over-year increase of 2.1 percent), as well as a 5.6 percent year-over-year increase in area hotels' average daily rate (to $96.48). Lodging tax collections totaled $22.4 million, up 10.6 percent year-over-year, and prepared food and beverage collections rose 9.8 percent in 2015, amounting to $25.26 million.

"Each year when we release these numbers we do so with the goal to continually educate the public on how tourism is a major economic driver for Wake County" sad Denny Edwards, president and CEO of the GRCVB. "Every sector of the hospitality community from our hotels and restaurants, attractions and retail stores benefit from the influx of outside money being spent in our area. To have a number like 15.1 million visitors to report is clearly impressive, and through thoughtfully and targeted marketing campaigns, sales initiatives and youth and amateur sporting events we can continue to keep that number growing."

Tourism continues to be one of the largest employment sectors in Wake County with above-average job growth and more than $656 million in labor income paid to local hospitality sector employees in 2015. In 2015, more than 24,461 local jobs were sustained directly by visitation to the Raleigh area.

The word "visitor" represents more than just vacationers. In addition to leisure visitors, it includes business travelers, meeting and convention delegates, day-trippers, families on weekend getaways and people visiting the area for specific reasons ranging from shopping to health care to sporting events.