Contact: Donna Bailey-Taylor

2020 Visitor Impact for Johnston County

County Spending Decreases by 33.1 Percent to $181.9 million


Smithfield, N.C. (October 20, 2021) — Domestic and international visitors to and within Johnston County spent $181.9 million in 2020, a decrease of 33.1% from 2019. The tourism industry in the county lost $89.77 million in visitor spending in 2020, or $245,945 a day. This data comes from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. 

“In trying to find something positive in our 2020 visitor spending numbers, I am excited that the new Economic Impact Study gives us a breakdown of market segments based on lodging, food & beverage, recreation, retail, and transportation. As in past reports, our county numbers for outlet shopping are not customized for Johnston County, so the impact of Carolina Premium Outlets is not reflected in our visitor spending numbers,” stated Donna Bailey-Taylor, President/CEO. 

Tourism impact highlights for Johnston County in 2020:

  • The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 1,749 people in Johnston County.

  • Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Johnston County was $60.8 million.

  • State tax revenue generated via tourism in Johnston County totaled $9.4m through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. About $7.6m in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses.

Visitor Spending by Market Segment (millions)

Lodging - $36.8m

Food & Beverage - $70.4m

Recreation - $20.7m 

Retail - $17.5m  (excludes outlet spending numbers)

Transportation - $36.5m 

Total Spending - $181.9m

“Like all destination marketing organizations across North Carolina and the U.S., we are now focused on our recovery and marketing through the devastating impacts of the pandemic on tourism. It is encouraging to see new businesses opening, expansions, and new hotel development on the rise in the county. I have a dash of optimism for the next 12-24 months as tourism continues to recover,” said Bailey-Taylor.

These statistics come from the “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2020,” which can be accessed at The study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by Tourism Economics in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association.

Statewide, visitor spending was down 32 percent to $19.96 billion compared to 2019. Tourism employment fell 26 percent to 178,685. The losses were most acutely felt in urban areas. 

Statewide highlights include: 

  • Domestic and international travelers spent $19.96 billion in North Carolina in 2020. The spending marks a 32 percent decrease from the $29.22 billion spent in 2019. 

  • Visitors to North Carolina generated nearly $3.0 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2020. The total represents a 26.6 percent decrease from 2019. 

  • State tax receipts as a result of domestic visitor spending decreased 26.4 percent to more than $891.6 million in 2020.

  • Local tax receipts from domestic visitor spending dropped 21 percent to $906.4 million.

  • Direct tourism employment in North Carolina decreased 26 percent to 178,685. 

  • Direct tourism payroll decreased 24.5 percent to $6.4 billion. 

  • Visitors spend more than $54 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds $4.9 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $2.4 million in state taxes and $2.5 million in local taxes). 

  • Each North Carolina resident saves on average $170 in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state.  

  • North Carolina hosted 37 million visitors in 2020. 

“We are extremely gratified that tourism thrived in 20 counties in the face of pandemic shutdowns and other impediments to travel,” said Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell. “And despite the bad news for North Carolina as a whole, our ranking at No. 5 among states for visitation is a position of strength for rebuilding our tourism economy. Given the state’s resilience and vast appeal of its natural beauty, our creative cities and our authentic experiences at every turn, we’re confident that we’ll regain what has been lost and exceed the spending records of the recent past.”