Visitors to Lee County spent $87.56 million in 2021, an increase of 26.8 percent from 2020, and the highest visitor spending in the county’s history.

The data comes from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

“We have created the See You in Sanford campaign over the past year to encourage visitors to explore the area for attractions that meet everyone’s interest level,” said Sanford Tourism Development Authority Executive Director Wendy Bryan. “The Sanford area has experienced positive growth, and we are desirable as a friendly and welcoming destination with great quality-of-life experiences.”

The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 610 people in Lee County. Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in the county was $22.7 million. State tax revenue generated in Lee County totaled $4 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. About $2.8 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses.

These statistics come from the “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2021.” The study was prepared for Visit North Carolina by Tourism Economics in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association.

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.