More visitors are traveling to Johnston County and spending more money. 2010 visitor spending rose 6.3 percent in Johnston County, according to figures compiled by North Carolina Department of Tourism, Film & Sports Development.

"Travel is definitely picking up over the last couple years," said Donna Bailey-Taylor, executive director of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau.

About 40 percent of visitors to the county are from North Carolina, with the next majority of visitors traveling from states along the Eastern Seaboard.

Hotels across the county are seeing revenue increases that mirror the overall 6 percent increase in spending, Bailey-Taylor said. "Talking with our hotels, they are starting to see a pick-up in corporate travel," she said.

In addition to business travel, leisure visitors come to the county for family events such as weddings and family reunions, festivals like Benson Mule Days, sporting events and more, Bailey-Taylor said.

And for those taking advantage of the county's tourist attractions, shopping tops the list. "By far, outlet shopping is the number one attraction in the county and the Visitors Bureau is launching new campaigns such as Girls Weekend and coupon offers on our website," Bailey-Taylor said.

Although Johnston's 6.3 percent increase in visitors falls below the state average of 9 percent, the numbers for 2011 are back to pre-recession revenues of 2008.  There are changes affecting growth negatively in the county with hotels shutting down and changing brands which affects visitor spending totals.  On the bright side, the Value Place extended stay facility opened at Exit 312 and a new Holiday Inn Express is under construction in Smithfield, and will open in early 2012.