WCU students analyze economic impact of tourism

Western Carolina University students in a course taught by Steve Morse, director of WCU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program, analyze data about travel industry trends across Western North Carolina.

Western Carolina University students in a course taught by Steve Morse, director of WCU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program, analyze data about travel industry trends across Western North Carolina.

Elected officials and hospitality industry representatives from 26 counties across Western North Carolina now have a better understanding of the significance of travel and tourism on the local economy, thanks to the work of students in the College of Business at Western Carolina University.

Students in a senior-level course taught by Steve Morse, director of WCU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program, presented customized, county-specific “tourism economic fact sheets” Tuesday, April 21, at the second annual regional tourism conference hosted by WCU.

The fact sheets are designed to illustrate the impact of spending of tourists and travelers on the tax base and job creation in counties ranging from Alleghany in the High Country of the northwestern mountains through Cleveland in the foothills to Cherokee in the southwestern tip of North Carolina, said Morse.

“The analysis conducted by the students provides additional evidence that tourism is a vital part of the local economy for Western North Carolina,” he said. “The spending of tourists – or, as I like to call them, ‘temporary taxpayers’ – has a direct impact on the tax bill being paid by local residents. More spending by visitors means that local folks are paying less in county and state taxes. And that spending also creates jobs for local people.”

Titled LEAD:Tourism and focused on the impact that successful festivals and events can have on local economies, the conference attracted approximately 200 elected and appointed government officials, representatives of tourism and economic development organizations and chambers of commerce, and owners and operators of private sector businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry.

For the fact sheets distributed at the event, the students analyzed county data for 2013 from the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development. Their analysis revealed that tourism had the following economic impacts in 2013 on these WNC counties:

    • Alleghany – Generated $22 million in direct tourist spending; produced $3.84 million in worker income; generated $2.48 million in combined state and local taxes; created 180 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $307.

 

    • Ashe – Generated $47.7 million in direct tourist spending; produced $6.83 million in worker income; generated $4.93 million in combined state and local taxes; created 370 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $284.

 

    • Avery – Generated $104.97 million in direct tourist spending; produced $23.32 million in worker income; generated $9.73 million in combined state and local taxes; created 1,180 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $698.

 

    • Buncombe – Generated $901.28 million in direct tourist spending; produced $190.21 million in worker income; generated $74 million in combined state and local taxes; created 9,790 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $646.

 

    • Burke – Generated $86.59 million in direct tourist spending; produced $12.2 million in worker income; generated $7.06 million in combined state and local taxes; created 660 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $175.

 

    • Caldwell – Generated $47.89 million in direct tourist spending; produced $7 million in worker income; generated $4 million in combined state and local taxes; created 330 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $107.

 

    • Cherokee – Generated $37.03 million in direct tourist spending; produced $5.48 million in worker income; generated $3.87 million in combined state and local taxes; created 300 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $220.

 

    • Clay – Generated $12.51 million in direct tourist spending; produced $1.33 million in worker income; generated $1.87 million in combined state and local taxes; created 60 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $261.

 

    • Cleveland – Generated $91.95 million in direct tourist spending; produced $12.89 million in worker income; generated $6.9 million in combined state and local taxes; created 630 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $160.

 

    • Graham – Generated $24.84 million in direct tourist spending; produced $4.16 million in worker income; generated $2.76 million in combined state and local taxes; created 250 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $468.

 

    • Haywood – Generated $155.38 million in direct tourist spending; produced $31.48 million in worker income; generated $14.11 million in combined state and local taxes; created 1,610 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $404.

 

    • Henderson – Generated $233.25 million in direct tourist spending; produced $40.52 million in worker income; generated $20.22 million in combined state and local taxes; created 2,050 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $368.

 

    • Jackson – Generated $163.03 million in direct tourist spending; produced $36.55 million in worker income; generated $16.31 million in combined state and local taxes; created 1,610 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $626.

 

    • Macon – Generated $140.85 million in direct tourist spending; produced $23.66 million in worker income; generated $17.29 million in combined state and local taxes; created 1,180 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $686.

 

    • Madison – Generated $32.83 million in direct tourist spending; produced $6.19 million in worker income; generated $3.14 million in combined state and local taxes; created 310 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $297.

 

    • McDowell – Generated $50.76 million in direct tourist spending; produced $7.37 million in worker income; generated $4.4 million in combined state and local taxes; created 400 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $212.

 

    • Mitchell – Generated $21.06 million in direct tourist spending; produced $3.11 million in worker income; generated $1.8 million in combined state and local taxes; created 160 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $207.

 

    • Polk – Generated $23.3 million in direct tourist spending; produced $3.24 million in worker income; generated $2.47 million in combined state and local taxes; created 180 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $217.

 

    • Rutherford – Generated $150.51 million in direct tourist spending; produced $20.73 million in worker income; generated $13.23 million in combined state and local taxes; created 1,140 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $393.

 

    • Surry – Generated $110.66 million in direct tourist spending; produced $15.53 million in worker income; generated $8.3 million in combined state and local taxes; created 780 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $249.

 

    • Swain – Generated $187.99 million in direct tourist spending; produced $51.75 million in worker income; generated $15.44 million in combined state and local taxes; created 2,110 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $1,768.

 

    • Transylvania – Generated $84.26 million in direct tourist spending; produced $14.83 million in worker income; generated $6.95 million in combined state and local taxes; created 740 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $497.

 

    • Watauga – Generated $216.72 million in direct tourist spending; produced $46.45 million in worker income; generated $18.96 million in combined state and local taxes; created 2,520 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $581.

 

    • Wilkes – Generated $67.48 million in direct tourist spending; produced $9.62 million in worker income; generated $4.82 million in combined state and local taxes; created 510 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $147.

 

    • Yadkin – Generated $33.39 million in direct tourist spending; produced $5.57 million in worker income; generated $2.56 million in combined state and local taxes; created 330 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $149.

 

    • Yancey – Generated $32.78 million in direct tourist spending; produced $5.17 million in worker income; generated $3.71 million in combined state and local taxes; created 230 jobs; and reduced the average household local and state tax bill by $338.

 

The research conducted by the hospitality and tourism majors is part of WCU’s emphasis on engaged learning activities that provide real-world experiences to students while also assisting local communities, businesses and industries.

The tourism conference was the first in a series of scheduled “spin-off events” from November’s LEAD:WNC, a one-day summit convened by WCU to discuss solutions leading to sustainable economic and community development. Additional conferences and workshops on growth and development issues in other aspects of the WNC economy are in the works, including a summit on entrepreneurship and small businesses that was scheduled for April 22.

For more detailed information about the analysis of the economic impact of the tourism industry in 26 counties of WNC, contact Steve Morse at 828-227-3386 or via email at scmorse@wcu.edu.