Year in Review

2016: The Year in Review

North Carolina's tourism industry achieved record performance in 2016, with estimated visitor spending increasing in 97 of the state’s 100 counties and resulting in an all-time high of $22.9 billion in direct spending, a 4.4 percent increase over 2015. Spending by travelers directly supported more than 219,000 jobs for North Carolinians, setting yet another record. Additionally, payroll income generated nearly $5.6 billion. Visitor spending generated roughly $1.2 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. While the actual number of visitors for the state decreased in 2016, those that came stayed longer and spent more resulting in increased economic impact.

Source: TNS TravelsAmerica


Program Highlights for 2016

Employment generated by domestic and international travelers in North Carolina increased 3.2 percent in 2016.  These travel-related jobs comprised 5.2 percent of total non-agricultural employment in North Carolina during 2016.

Source: U.S. Travel Association

On an average day in 2016, visitors in North Carolina spent more than $63 million and contributed approximately $5.1 million in state and local taxes.

Source: U.S. Travel Association

Following record gains in site traffic and visitation in 2015, Visit North Carolina continued its successful marketing program in a year that brought natural disasters and political and social controversy challenges in the state and nationwide. Visit North Carolina combined close monitoring of outside events and related media coverage with analysis of messaging across key audiences and stakeholders to adapt and optimize its program over the course of 2016, resulting in another record year despite strong headwinds. Such efforts included participation in consumer travel shows, tailored media strategy and the launch of new television and online video messaging showcasing the inner and outer beauty travelers can find in North Carolina. The "Beauty Here" campaign emphasized the striking and disarming beauty North Carolina offers. Website traffic in media markets grew 76 percent year-over-year during the TV campaign. That increase included 131 percent growth from Atlanta and 123 percent growth from Nashville, the two largest target markets. ended 2016 with a record 6.88 million user sessions, a 9.76 percent increase from 2015. These sessions drove 1.92 million downstream referrals to North Carolina industry partner websites, and the site generated a total of more than 3 million key performance indicator actions.

Social media continued its growth in 2016, with followers across Visit NC Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube channels reaching 253,557, a 37 percent growth year-over-year. Social traffic to increased by 70 percent, with 232,120 referrals.

Visit North Carolina cost-effectively enhanced its efforts to reach travelers increasingly planning travel online by continuing to focus on and enhance its investment in digital advertising, including an evolving mix of display advertising, native advertising, paid search and paid social to accomplish goals across awareness, site traffic and conversion.

Proactive public relations efforts expanded Visit North Carolina’s outreach to key audiences with a program that generated more than 765 million consumer impressions across the United States and 
1.65 billion 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 within and outside the state – an increase of $2 million from 2015.

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 2016 calendar year, productions were estimated to have had a direct in-state spend of more than $140 million while creating in excess of 11,500 job opportunities including 1,700 for the state’s well-trained crew professionals.  Among the many 2016 highlights were the filming of season one of Good Behavior, the event series Shots Fired, season one of Six, the made-for-television event Dirty Dancing, the continuation of Love It or List It, season four of A Chef’s Life, the second season of Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks and the third season of My Big Fat Fabulous Life. Independent feature films included Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Abundant Acreage Available and Bolden!. National commercials for Mountain Dew, Country Inns & Suites, Hillshire Farm, Coca-Cola and Audi were also filmed within the state.

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.

Please review the balance of this Annual Report for more details on Visit North Carolina’s 2016 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.