Polk had largest visitor spending percent increase in NC for 2015

Published 10:00 pm Monday, September 12, 2016

Out of 100 counties, Polk County was the only in the state to reach doubledigits in percentage of visitor spending increase in 2015 over 2014. 

Gov. Pat McCrory recently acknowledged Polk County as having the largest percent increase in visitor spending in the state.

County officials said the increase of 11.8 percent to $26.76 million in 2015 is thanks in part to the county’s larger attractions like the Gorge Zip Line in Saluda and Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC).

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“It is great news for Polk County and our local businesses to see such growth in visitor spending,” said Polk County Manager Marche Pittman. “This increase is thanks, in part, to our larger attractions like the Gorge Zip Line in Saluda, which opened in 2013, and the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) in Mill Spring, which had its first full season in 2015. We are already known for our natural beauty and equestrian history and these attractions are drawing an expanded audience to Polk County.”

Polk County Travel and Tourism Director Melinda Massey made the announcement a couple of weeks ago in a press release.

TIEC Chief Operating Officer Sharon Decker said TIEC is pleased to call Polk County home and thankful for the warm reception visitors receive when they visit here, according to Massey’s release.

“It means they will visit again,” said Decker. “The growth in hospitality revenues is good for all of us.”

The figures are from a study prepared for Visit North Carolina by the U.S. Travel Association called the Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2015.

Polk County topped the state as the largest visitor spending increase over 2014 with Cherokee County second with a 7.8 percent increase, Vance County third with a 4.7 percent increase, Henderson County fourth with a 4.7 percent increase and Union County fifth with a 4.6 percent increase, according to Visit North Carolina statistics. Rutherford County ranked 12th in the state in largest visitor spending percentage increase for 2015 with a 4.1 percent increase. Rutherford County visitors spent $164.09 million in 2015 compared to Polk’s $26.76. Rutherford County ranked 28th in the state in 2015 in visitor spending. Polk County’s 2015 rank by visitor spending in dollars increased to 78th in the state from 80th in the state the previous year.

Since 2005, Polk County visitor’s spending has increased over $10 million with the largest increase over the past decade being between 2014 and 2015, according to Visit North Carolina figures.

In 2005, Polk County’s visitor spending was $16.66 million, compared to 2015’s $26.76 million (see chart for a complete list of visitor spending over the past decade).

Massey said tourism highlights for 2015 include that total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Polk County was $3.92 million, which was an increase of 16.5 percent, also the highest percentage increase in the state; that state tax revenue generated in Polk County totaled $1.41 million through state sales and excise taxes and taxes on personal and corporate income. There were about $1.51 million generated in local taxes from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported business, Massey said.

And each Polk resident saves $143 in taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the county.

Massey said in the study, economic impact is represented by measures of spending, employment, payroll, business receipts and tax revenues generated by traveler spending. Travel expenditures, Massey said, include spending by travelers on goods and services during trips, such as lodging, transportation, meals, entertainment and retail shopping.

Gov. McCrory said in May that visitors to North Carolina set a record for spending in 2015 with $21.96 billion total, which was an increase of three percent from 2014.

Visit North Carolina Executive Director Wit Tuttell said tourism continues to be a major driver of economic development across North Carolina with the state being the sixth most visited state in the U.S.

To see Visit North Carolina’s full statistics on visitor spending in the study, visit partners.visitnc.com/economic-impact-studies.