Downtown Rutherfordton, pictured in August 2012. Katie Bailey/Carolina Public Press
New data show that visitor spending increased across North Carolina last year. In Rutherford County, tourists spent nearly $150 million, an increase of 5.6 percent from 2011. Pictured here: downtown Rutherfordton in August 2012. Katie Bailey/Carolina Public Press

All of North Carolina’s 100 counties saw an increase in visitor spending in 2012, according to data released yesterday by Gov. Pat McCrory and N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker. Statewide tourism revenue rose to $19.4 billion, a 5.4 percent increase over 2011.

Five of the state’s 18 westernmost counties saw a greater increase than the statewide average: Macon (7.6 percent), Watauga (6.8 percent), Buncombe (6.5 percent), Rutherford (5.6 percent) and Clay (5.5 percent).

The data was analyzed by the U.S. Travel Association for the state Commerce Department’s Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development. It shows that, for some WNC counties especially, tourism remains a major and growing source of revenue.

The five mountain-area counties that yielded the most visitor spending in 2012 were Buncombe ($834 million), Swain ($293 million), Watauga ($211 million), Henderson ($218 million) and Rutherford ($150 million).

See all of the data, including figures on tourism-related employment, payrolls and taxes, below. The information on WNC counties is highlighted.

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Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at

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