Moore County witnessed an unprecedented $673 million in economic impact from visitor spending last year, a 70 percent increase from the previous year.

That increase ranks as the fourth highest rate of increase statewide, up from $396 million in visitor spending in 2020.

Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, shared these findings in its annual report released Wednesday. With this increase, Moore County now claims the tenth highest tourism economy in the state, the highest ranking in history.

“We knew a rebound in visitor spending numbers would happen given the impacts of the pandemic in 2020, but to see such a massive increase and to crack to top 10 in the state as a tourism economy for the first time is great accomplishment,” said Phil Werz, president and CEO of the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Werz credits “the momentum created here by the demand for golf” for the increase but also is quick to add that “we are in a rural county with great small towns providing unique experiences.”

Werz noted that recent developments from the USGA, including the scheduled return of the Golf Hall of Fame to Pinehurst in 2024, its naming of Pinehurst as its first “anchor” site for further U.S. Opens (2024, 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047) and the scheduled completion of Golf House Pinehurst in 2023 proves that others recognize “Moore County is one of the best places to escape to in North Carolina.”

Among the highlights in 2021 tourism findings:

* Moore County ranked tenth among 100 counties in North Carolina for annual visitor spending.

* The tourism industry employed more than 5,000 people in Moore County, an increase of 15.1 percent from the previous year. A number of these employees had been laid off or furloughed during the coronavirus pandemic and were rehired.

* Tourism in Moore County saved each resident $516.59 in taxes – a savings increase of 46.7 percent from 2020. The state average was $223.80.

* State tax revenue generated by tourism in Moore County totaled $28.1 million, an increase of 51 percent from the previous year.

Overall, Moore County ranked:

* seventh in lodging spending, $168.5 million, up 89 percent from last year;

* eleventh in food and beverage spending, $212.26 million, up 54 percent;

* ninth in recreation, $96.3 million, up 86 percent;

* eighth in retail spending, $60.1 million, up 63 percent; and

* eleventh in transportation, $135.9 million, up 67 percent.

“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.”

Werz is pleased with the role of the CVB in this recognition but believes that there were “lots of factors for a perfect storm.” The global resurgence in golf as a destination, Pinehurst Resort’s record-breaking year, the doubling of short-term rentals in the area and the eight percent increase in “pure hotel occupancy, year after year” were big contributors.

The CVB also increased its spend in marketing with a continued concentration on golf, but also non-golf related activities. Werz also believes that the “concentration on marketing our small towns and what each has to offer — including Seagrove, Vass, Cameron, Robbins —” was a positive factor.

The findings from the annual report are based on the 2021 calendar year. The Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area CVB concluded its 2021-22 fiscal year on June 30 with occupancy tax collections exceeding $3 million for the first time ever, an increase of 39.1 percent from the previous fiscal year.

(Article by Sam Hudson, The Pilot)