CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 16, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The state of North Carolina reported a record for tourism spending in 2011 and Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located, is leading the way.

A study released this month by the North Carolina Division of Tourism showed Mecklenburg County leads all of the state's 100 counties with more than $4.1 billion in domestic travelers' expenditures in 2011. The total is more than double any other county's tourism spending. Wake County ranks second with a $1.7 billion contribution. Mecklenburg County also directly employs the most tourism employees with more than 43,000 and has the largest total payroll ($1.4 billion).

"We are proud to be such a significant contributor to the economic health of the state of North Carolina," said Tom Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA). "Our mission is to ensure the hospitality and tourism industry creates jobs and contributes to the economic success of our community, so it is especially encouraging to see this type of third-party validation of our results."

The county's expenditures grew 10.5 percent in 2011 and should continue to increase in 2012 with the an estimated 35,000 visitors expected in early September for the Democratic National Convention (DNC), the county's largest convention to date. While no formal study has been conducted on the expected economic impact of the historic event, past political conventions offer some clues. The 2008 DNC in Denver generated $153.9 million in economic benefit to the City and County of Denver. The 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis generated nearly $170 million in new spending to the local area.

"Estimating economic impact in advance of a convention or event is often more an art than a science," said Murray. "Based on past conventions we predict it will be well north of $100 million, but it is essential we measure ourselves after the fact to see actual results. Regardless of the actual number, we know it will be a large, positive impact to our area."

Domestic visitors to and within North Carolina spent a record $18 billion in 2011, an increase of 8 percent from 2010. For the first time, state tax receipts as a result of visitor spending neared $1 billion in 2011. Local tax revenues totaled nearly $561 million. Visitor expenditures directly generated 187,900 jobs and more than $4 billion in payroll income within North Carolina in 2011.

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 plus employment figures to determine the overall impact of visitor spending in North Carolina. For individual county listings, go to http://www.nccommerce.com/tourism/research/economic-impact/teim.

About the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) works to ensure the visitors and events that choose Charlotte have a positive experience. Our responsibilities include destination marketing through Visit Charlotte and management of Charlotte's public assembly facilities, which include the Charlotte Convention Center, Time Warner Cable Arena, Bojangles' Coliseum, Ovens Auditorium and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. CRVA's mission seeks to leverage its hospitality marketing and management expertise to maximize the impact of the Charlotte region's economy, creating opportunities and jobs for the community.

The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=14103

Photos accompanying this release are available at:
http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=14102

Kimberly Meesters
(704) 654-4431


Laura Hill
(704) 414-4183