Has tourism come back?

N.C. State University economist Mike Walden recently spoke at a tourism industry conference. The industry was hit hard during the recession but is experiencing a rebound, he says.

“It was hit very hard. Indeed, spending on tourist activities fell at double digit rates over the recession, more so than the general decline in the economy.

“I think the reason is obvious: If a household, for example, has their income cut back because their hours of work were cut back or they lost their job, they’re looking for ways to cut back on their spending. Tourists going on trips, vacation trips — tourist expenditures are obviously one thing that they can cut, because obviously they’re not necessities.

“The good news, though …, is that tourist spending has made a big rebound in the last two years, not only here in North Carolina but nationwide. In fact, in North Carolina tourism spending is now at 98 percent of pre-recession levels. And actually that’s a little better than the turnaround at the national level.

“Indeed, North Carolina’s tourist industry both fell less and has had a quicker rebound than tourism in general in the nation. So I think this says something about our tourist industry here in North Carolina. It still is a major, major factor in our state’s economy.”

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