According to the 2014 Visit North Carolina Annual Report, visitors to NC spent over $21 billion in the state with domestic visitor spending supporting more than 200,000 jobs for NC residents. The tourism industry contributed almost $5 billion to the state’s payroll and traveler spending generated $3 billion in tax revenue, saving NC residents substantial dollar amounts per year.

What brought them to NC? Visit NC found that activities involving adventure and exploring the state’s natural, scenic beauty attracted the most visitors. Of the various attractions, 13% came for rural sightseeing, 7% for viewing wildlife, and 4% for hiking or backpacking. According to the US Travel Association and the NC Department of Commerce, tourism was a $20 billion industry for the state in 2013. Tourists spent almost $164 million in Alamance County alone in 2013, and generated several million more in tax revenue. Travelers spent over $1 billion in Guilford, almost $62 million in Rockingham, $168 million in Orange, and approximately $31 million in Chatham Counties during the same year.

Conserving the natural beauty of the Haw River and providing recreational opportunities for residents and tourists is more than a quality of life issue. It is an industry, capable of producing substantial revenue for small business owners, hotel and restaurant purveyors, and local governments, as well as jobs for local residents. Further, a conservation and recreation based tourism industry is non-polluting, preserves rather than depletes natural resources, and serves to attract non-tourism based industries.

The Great Allegheny Passage is a great example of how a trail brought economic revitalization to rural towns. Learn more on the Trail Town Program website.

Sources & Further Reading