Wilmington, NC: Domestic visitors to and within New Hanover County spent an estimated $930.40 million in 2021, which represents an increase of 55.6 percent from 2020 spending. New Hanover County ranks 7th in visitor spending among North Carolina’s 100 counties. Tourism employment in New Hanover County increased to 6,142 in 2021, up from 5,455 in 2020. The data comes from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. 

“We are pleased to report that 2021 sets a new benchmark for visitor spending in New Hanover County. While we expected an increase over 2020 pandemic-driven decreases, we did not anticipate that spending in 2021 would so greatly exceed our pre-pandemic record of $658.78 million in 2019, representing a 41.23 percent increase,” states Kim Hufham, president/CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority. “The significant increase in 2021 visitor spending can be partly attributed to the willingness of our travel partners to support a unified recovery campaign. Our united approach helped yield an increase of 59.53 percent in countywide room occupancy tax collections for calendar year 2021, which totaled more than $21 million dollars and outperformed the previous room tax record of $15.52 million set in 2019. It has been a challenging yet rewarding road to recovery that could not have been achieved without our amazing visitors and the resiliency, perseverance and partnership of New Hanover County tourism stakeholders and businesses, and the support of our residents.” 

Travel and tourism is vital to the economic success of a coastal destination like New Hanover County, especially in terms of jobs, small businesses, growth and quality of place. Our community benefits from visitor spending through job creation and a strong tax base that helps fund beach renourishment, the Wilmington Convention Center, and other tourism-related projects. Additionally, travel-generated state and local tax revenues offset the tax burden of local citizens. 

Tourism impact highlights for 2021: 

  • Domestic visitors to and within New Hanover County spent an estimated $930.40 million in 2021, which represents an increase of 55.6 percent from 2020 spending. Visitor spending in 2021 also represents an increase of 41.23 percent over record 2019 spending. 
  • The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 6,143 people in New Hanover County.  
  • Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in New Hanover County was $246.5 million. 
  • State tax revenue generated in New Hanover County totaled $34.5 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. About $38.3 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses. 
  • Travel-generated state and local tax revenues saved each New Hanover County resident an estimated $319.28. 

These statistics come from the “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2021,” which can be accessed at partners.visitnc.com/economic-impact-studies. The study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by Tourism Economics in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association. 

Statewide, visitor spending in 2021 rebounded by 44.9 percent to reach $28.9 billion. Following the devastating pandemic-related losses of the 2020, the total fell just short of the record $29.22 spent in 2019. Direct tourism employment increased 10.5 percent to 197,500. 

“These findings are something that everyone in North Carolina can celebrate,” said Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell. “They’re a testament to the resilience of our businesses and our residents, and to the enduring appeal of destinations that include everything a traveler might want. The economic well-being of the state and all its communities rises with the pleasures travelers find in the natural beauty of our public spaces, our culinary traditions and innovation, our remarkable towns and our spirited cities. North Carolina can claim it all.” 

The New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority (TDA), d/b/a Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau, markets and develops the county and its communities’ leisure and group travel experiences for economic growth and quality of place. 



Connie Nelson
Wilmington CVB
910-341-4030 x120