Year in Review

2017: Year in Review

North Carolina's tourism industry achieved record performance in 2017, with estimated visitor spending at an all-time high of $23.9 billion in direct spending, a 4.2 percent increase over 2016. Spending by travelers directly supported more than 225,000 jobs for North Carolinians, setting yet another record. Additionally, payroll income generated $6.0 billion. Visitor spending generated more than $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenues for reinvestment in communities all across North Carolina.

Source: U.S. Travel Association

Partnerships with destinations, attractions, lodging and dining properties and associations statewide remain key to North Carolina's success. Effective collaboration within the tourism industry contributed to North Carolina maintaining its position as the nation’s sixth most-visited state.

Source: TNS TravelsAmerica

Program Highlights for 2017

Employment generated by domestic and international travelers in North Carolina increased 2.7 percent in 2017. These travel-related jobs comprised 5.3 percent of total nonagricultural employment in North Carolina during 2017.

Source: U.S. Travel Association

On an average day in 2017, visitors in North Carolina spent more than $65 million and contributed more than $5.3 million in state and local taxes.

Source: U.S. Travel Association

2017 represented a year of strategic evolution for Visit North Carolina’s brand. Building upon successful mitigation of natural disasters and political and social controversy in 2016, Visit North Carolina recognized the opportunity and the need to better define its audience and reposition its brand for even more success moving forward. Following an awareness and usage study, combined with insights from primary and secondary research and data sources, Visit North Carolina shifted its audience definition from primarily demographic to psychographic, defining its core target as the medium affinity, never-visited traveler – which represents the highest opportunity for visitation and visitor spending based on the rate of repeat travel to the state. Articulating what is most motivating, differentiating and compelling to that audience, Visit North Carolina evolved its brand strategy from “Deeper Connections” to “Richer Experiences,” where travelers feel and experience every moment to the fullest to truly feel more in touch with themselves in North Carolina. Development and production of a new brand campaign followed in late 2017 for 2018 launch.

VisitNC.com ended 2017 with a record 7.29 million user sessions, a 6.11 percent increase from 2016. These sessions drove 2.02 million downstream web referrals and 62,739 phone calls to North Carolina industry partners.

Social media continued its growth in 2017, with followers across Visit NC Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube channels reaching more than 324,000 followers, a 32 percent growth year-over-year. Paid social media is a powerful and efficient tool to support organic social traffic to VisitNC.com, and helped lead a 387 percent increase in social referral traffic, with more than 1.1 million sessions.

Visit North Carolina reached travelers in all stages of the planning and conversion funnel, including target market broadcast and digital tactics to drive awareness and affinity; seasonal digital campaigns driving awareness, site traffic and downstream conversion across display, native and paid social advertising; and always-on demand-capture paid search.

Arrivalist, the analytics tool through which Visit North Carolina tracks digital media efficiency in terms of generating arrivals in the state from online exposures, shows a 35.96 percent Arrival Lift since that metric launched April 1. This means being exposed to Visit North Carolina’s tracked owned and paid digital media makes travelers 35.96 percent more likely to convert and arrive in market than control groups of similar travelers not exposed.

Proactive public relations efforts expanded Visit North Carolina’s outreach to key audiences with a program that generated more than 221 million consumer impressions across the United States and 94 million consumer impressions internationally.

Cooperative marketing programs with NC travel industry partners and effective partnerships with in-state media associations resulted in an estimated $8 million in incremental direct investment, in-kind support and brand exposure for North Carolina and VisitNC.com within and outside the state.

The North Carolina Film Office continued to attract productions to film in the state. The year saw the continuation and maturity of the state’s rebate program, which is monetized by the recently created Film and Entertainment Grant. For the 2017 calendar year, productions were estimated to have had a direct in-state spend of more than $57 million while creating in excess of 5,300 job opportunities including 2,135 for the state’s well-trained crew professionals. Among the many 2017 highlights were the filming of season two of Good Behavior, the continuation of Love It or List It, season five of A Chef’s Life, the third season of Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks and the fourth season of My Big Fat Fabulous Life. The critically acclaimed independent feature film American Animals also filmed in the state along with national commercials for Goodyear and Wendy’s. 2017 also saw the spotlight shine brightly on the state’s film industry with the release of the award-winning feature, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri late in the year. This feature, which debuted at the prestigious Venice Film Festival and made its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 2017, garnered much media attention as it played multiple film festivals and received critical acclaim. Three Billboards would continue to garner international attention for the state into 2018 as it expanded into more markets worldwide and won numerous awards including the Golden Globe award for Best Picture.

Visit North Carolina’s partnership with the North Carolina Sports Association continued to pay dividends with the state’s success in attracting sporting events to small and large communities.

Tourism development outreach in small communities was strengthened through several initiatives, including an ongoing partnership with the NC Department of Commerce and NC Department of Natural & Cultural Resources on efforts including Cultural Heritage Tourism Development, Blue Ridge Music Trails and an expanded schedule for Visit North Carolina’s Tourism Resource Assistance Center. We also continued to increase partner participation in the NC Certified Retirement Communities Program.

Please review the balance of this Annual Report for more details on Visit North Carolina’s 2017 program of work and accomplishments. Visit North Carolina continues to collaborate with partners statewide to ensure North Carolina's continued success and growth as a preferred travel, film and sports destination and positive economic force for the entire state.