That's billion, with a 'B.'
The visitor spending topped the $16.5 billion figure from 2007, which was the previous record, and positions the state to top the $17.1 billion in total visitor spending – domestic and foreign tourists – set in 2007.
"The tourism industry is a critical economic engine for North Carolina, and this continued growth in revenues is a positive sign,” Gov. Beverly Perdue said in a statement.
The figures are the preliminary results of an annual study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association for the state Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development. The study uses sales and tax revenue data and employment figures to determine the overall impact of visitor spending in North Carolina.
State tax revenues from visitors increased 3.5 percent from 2007, to $843.2 million. Local tax revenues also increased, gaining 2.5 percent to $542.3 million.
North Carolina also moved from the seventh-most-visited state in 2007 to the sixth-most-visited last year, a study by TNS TravelsAmerica found.