My Catawba County

Local Tourism is Thriving

Local Tourism is Thriving

The data are in: Catawba County continues to be a great place to visit! The Hickory Metro Convention Center and Visitors Bureau released its annual report today on Catawba County tourism, which shows a 32.4% increase in positive impact to our local economy from visitors. To learn more, read on - and check out all we have to offer visitors at

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Domestic and international visitors to and within Catawba County spent $291.93 millionin 2021, an increase of 32.4 percent from 2020. The data comes from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

“Visitor spending was strong in Catawba County in 2021 despite most of the year we were still going through the unknowns of the pandemic, which shows the importance of tourism and the value it adds to our community,” said CEO of the Hickory Metro Convention Center & Visitors Bureau Mandy Pitts Hildebrand. “Catawba County has a wealth of natural amenities as well as event spaces like the Hickory Metro Convention Center, and sporting facilities and events, a variety of lodging options, authentic and well-known local restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries. We continue to be the premier place to purchase quality furniture crafted by local artisans.

In 2019, visitors spent $302 million which was the highest on record for the county and in 2020 the amount was decreased to $220 million due to the pandemic.

“Now that we have seen the 2021 numbers, I envision that 2022 could be a record year in visitor spending for the county,” added Hildebrand. “We are tremendously fortunate to have positive relationships with all of our tourism partners as all of us working together to greet, serve and embrace visitors which is beneficial to everyone in the industry and the community.”

Tourism impact highlights for 2021 in Catawba County:

  • The travel and tourism industry directly employees more than 2,200 people in Catawba County.
  • Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Catawba County was $77.8 million.
  • State tax revenue generated in Catawba Countytotaled $13 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. About $11.3 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses.
  • Due to the state and local taxed created by visitors, there is a savings of $149.65 in taxes per resident.

These statistics come from the “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2021,” 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 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.”

Statewide highlights include:

  • Total spending by domestic and international visitors in North Carolina reached $28.9 billion in 2021.That sum represents a 44.9 percent increase over 2020 expenditures. The figure falls 1 percent below the record $29.22 billion spent in 2019.
  • Domestic travelers spent a record $28.6 billion in 2021. Spending was up 45.2 percent from $19.7 billion in 2020.
  • International travelers spent $337 million in 2021, up 25.6 percent from the previous year.
  • Visitors to North Carolina generated $3.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2021. The total represents a 29 percent increase from 2020.
  • State tax receipts from visitor spending rose 34 percent to nearly $1.2 billion in 2021
  • Local tax receipts grew 26 percent to $1.1 billion.
  • Direct tourism employment in North Carolina increased 10.5 percent to 197,500.
  • Direct tourism payroll increased 18.9 percent to $7.7 billion.
  • Visitors spent more than $79 million per day in North Carolina. That spending added $6.4 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $3.3 million in state taxes and $3.1 million in local taxes).
  • Each North Carolina household saved $580 on average in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state. Savings per capita averaged $222.
  • North Carolina hosted nearly 45 million visitors in 2021.

“We work closely with our tourism partners in surrounding counties including Alexander, Burke and Caldwell Counties as together we are the Hickory Metropolitan Area,” added Hildebrand. “Visitors do not see city or county lines so we work together to provide the best visitor experience possible.”

Photo by Chad Austin, Inc.