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(Asheville Citizen Ti

mes - Buncombe County) Tourists spent an estimated $901 million locally as Buncombe County led the state in the growth of tourism revenues in 2013, up 8 percent from the previous year.

Buncombe County also saw a 5 percent growth in direct tourism employment with 9,700 employees and a payroll of $190 million last year, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Commerce's Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development.

Visitors to North Carolina spent a record $20 billion in 2013, an increase of 4 percent from the previous year. State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending topped $1 billion in 2013, and local tax revenues directly resulting from visitor spending totaled more than $601 million. Visitor expenditures directly supported 198,270 jobs and generated more than $4.6 billion in payroll income across North Carolina.

Statewide, visitor spending topped $1 billion in Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford counties and approached $1 billion in Dare and Buncombe.

"North Carolina continues to show that it is one of the most sought-after vacation spots in the country," Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday. "These statistics are no surprise; tourism stimulates our economy and encourages visitors to consider moving to our great state. The 2013 tourism dollars prove our cultural resources are just as big of a draw as our natural ones."

The visitor spending figures come from an annual study commissioned by the Division of Tourism and conducted by the U.S. Travel Association. The study uses sales and tax revenue data, employment figures and other industry data to determine the overall impact of visitor spending in North Carolina. Highlights include:

• Mecklenburg County received more than $4.6 billion in domestic travelers' expenditures to lead all of North Carolina's 100 counties. Wake County ranked second with nearly $1.9 billion, followed by Guilford County with $1.2 billion.

• The largest percent increases in visitor spending were seen in Buncombe (8 percent), Burke (7.6 percent) and Carteret (7.4 percent). Henderson County followed with a 6.8 percent increase, then Wilkes (6.2 percent), Forsyth (5.9 percent), Durham (5.8 percent), Brunswick (5.5%) and Rowan (5.5%).

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