Tourism interests have proven resilient in Moore County, buoying the hospitality industry this year after the economic whiplash of 2020.
According to figures released late last week by the state, local visitor spending dipped to $396 million last year, representing a 32 percent drop compared to 2019’s all-time high of $563 million. The decrease ranks as the 14th highest rate of decline statewide; however, Moore County remains one of North Carolina’s highest ranked tourism economies.
Statewide numbers tracked similarly with domestic and international travelers spent $19.96 billion in North Carolina in 2020, also a 32 percent decrease from 2019.
Commissioned by Visit North Carolina and conducted by the U.S. Travel Association in collaboration with Tourism Economics, the annual visitor spending study provides preliminary estimates of domestic and international traveler expenditures as well as employment, payroll income, and state and local tax revenues directly generated by these expenditures. The findings are considered preliminary and reflect the economic impact of tourism on each of the state’s 100 counties.
“The pandemic impacted the entire state with a few outliers. Moore County was not immune and we knew that before these numbers were published,” said Phil Werz, president and CEO of the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
Here in Moore County, state tax revenue totaled $18.6 million last year through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. About $17.6 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel and travel-support businesses.
The estimated state and local tax savings per resident was calculated at $352.09, the study found. Also, for the first time, the report further broke down visitor spending data based on a variety of travel-related sectors.
Overall, Moore County ranked top thirteenth or better in all spending categories in 2020, including lodging at $89.2 million (ranked 13th); food and beverage at $137.1 million (12th); recreation at $51.8 million (10th); retail at $36.9 million (13th) and transportation at $81 million (12th).
Urban counties in North Carolina saw more acute losses in visitor spending with Mecklenburg down 51 percent; Durham (50 percent); Guilford and Orange (48 percent); and Forsyth (47 percent).
“Fortunately, 2020 is ancient history and something no one ever wishes to see happen again, but we came through it all better than most based on the numbers,” said Werz.
Local tourism began to rebound late last year and, with golf also seeing a national resurgence, all-time Moore County occupancy tax collection figures were recorded in six of the first eight months of 2021. The only exceptions being February, when it rained nearly every day, and June — when the high water mark was set during the 2014 back-to-back U.S. Opens.
“No matter how you slice it, yes 2020 was down for most of the entire state. But we have not only recovered from the direct impacts of the pandemic, we are once again on all-time monthly record pacing,” Werz said. “We are in a good place. We have recovered well and that is a credit to the more than 4,400 people that work in the (Moore County) tourism industry.”
The annual visitor spending study prepared for Visit NC can be viewed online at partners.visitnc.com/economic-impact-studies.