Davidson River in the Pisgah National Forest in Transylvania County. File photo/Carolina Public Press

In each of North Carolina’s 17 westernmost counties, tourists spent more money in 2010 than they did the prior year, according to data recently released by the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development.

The Western North Carolina data was included in a statewide report released by the agency last week. The overall data indicated 98 of North Carolina’s 100 counties experienced increased visitor spending last year. Northampton and Columbus counties each experienced tourism spending declines of less than 1 percent.

The agency also reported that a record $17 billion in tourism dollars was spent statewide in 2010, up 9 percent from the previous year. Mecklenburg County led the state with about $3.73 billion in expenditures last year, an increase of 12.2 percent.

In Western North Carolina, Buncombe County led the pack with $729.02 million in tourist spending in 2010, up 11.3 percent from the prior year. Buncombe County’s expenditures ranked fifth-highest in the state.

The data was prepared for North Carolina by the U.S. Travel Association, which describes itself on its website as a national nonprofit that represents all components of the $704 billion travel industry with the mission of increasing travel to and within the United States. The U.S. Travel Association based its study results on data like sales information, tax revenue figures and employment data.

Here’s 2010 tourism expenditure data for the 17 westernmost counties in North Carolina:

  • Avery: $89.82 million in expenditures, a 5.6% increase from 2009
  • Buncombe: $729.02 million in expenditures, an 11.3% increase from 2009
  • Cherokee: $31.64 million in expenditures, a 3% increase from 2009
  • Clay: $11.23 million in expenditures, a 4.2% increase from 2009
  • Graham: $22.82 million in expenditures, a 6.7% increase from 2009
  • Haywood: $116.31 million in expenditures, a 6.8% increase from 2009
  • Henderson: $203.09 million in expenditures, a 3.7% increase from 2009
  • Jackson: $62.58 million in expenditures, a 2.8% increase from 2009
  • Macon: $122.08 million in expenditures, a 6.6% increase from 2009
  • Madison: $28.54 million in expenditures, a 1.3% increase from 2009
  • McDowell: $44.09 million in expenditures, an 8% increase from 2009
  • Mitchell: $19.10 million in expenditures, a 4.1% increase from 2009
  • Polk: $20.26 million in expenditures, a 6.5% increase from 2009
  • Rutherford: $129.25 million in expenditures, an 8.3% increase from 2009
  • Swain: $256.35 million in expenditures, an 8% increase from 2009
  • Transylvania: $71.75 million in expenditures, a 1.7% increase from 2009
  • Yancey: $29.92 million in expenditures, an 8.4% increase from 2009

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Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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