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Tourism spending down in Rowan; N.C. sees increase in 62 counties

Staff report
RALEIGH ń Gov. Bev Perdue announced Wednesday that 62 of the state’s 100 counties saw increases in visitor spending in 2008, but Rowan County was not one of them.
Data from the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development showed domestic visitors to and within North Carolina spent a record $16.9 billion in 2008, an increase of 2.1 percent from 2007. Sixteen counties had increases in visitor spending of more than 5 percent.
Visitor expenditures directly generated 190,500 jobs and nearly $4.2 billion in payroll income within North Carolina in 2008. Payroll increased 3.9 percent from 2007. Visitor spending in the state also directly generated close to $2.7 billion in tax revenue for federal, state and local governments in 2008, up 3.6 percent from 2007.
Rowan County’s piece of the pie actually shrank by 1.7 percent, with visitor spending at $116 million.
In contrast, Cabarrus County benefitted from a 4.9 percent increase in visitor spending, with a total of more than $288 million.
Iredell County saw a decrease, as well, of 1.4 percent; Stanly dropped by 1.6 percent.
Davie went up 2.2 percent; Davidson, .9 percent.
James Meacham, executive director of the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority, said Rowan County did not have the kind of growth experienced by Cabarrus County.
Although Rowan County was ahead in its expenditures in the summer of 2008, the decline of the economy in the fall hit the county, he said.
In a release, Perdue said, “We know that current economic conditions are affecting businesses all across the state, including those in the tourism industry. But this continued economic growth, and especially growth in tax revenues, is encouraging.”
Meacham noted that while the economy fell at approximately 8 percent, the county’s tourism figures fell at a much lesser rate.
“We fared better than the entire economy did,” he said.
Like the rest of the economy, Meacham said, 2009 has also seen a spending decrease.
“It’s not going up, but we’re seeing a stabilization,” he said.
The visitor spending figures are the results of an annual study commissioned by the Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development and conducted by the U.S. Travel Association. The study uses sales and tax revenue data plus employment figures to determine the overall impact of visitor spending in North Carolina. Highlights include:
– Mecklenburg County received more than $3.6 billion in domestic travelers’ expenditures to lead all 100 of North Carolina’s counties. Wake County ranked second with more than $1.5 billion, followed by Guilford County with close to $1.1 billion.
– Thirty-five of North Carolina’s 100 counties, including Rowan, each received more than $100 million in domestic travelers’ expenditures in 2008.
– Thirty-three counties in North Carolina, including Rowan, had 1,000 or more jobs directly supported by domestic travelers during 2008.
– Onslow County showed the largest percentage increase in visitor spending with an 8.3 percent increase. Of the state’s large tourism destinations, Forsyth County showed the greatest increase, gaining 5.9 percent.

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