Wake County welcomed an all-time high number of 15.6 million visitors last year, according to the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The 15.6 million visitors who traveled to Wake County in 2016 spent $2.4 billion, officials said, which is an increase of 4.2 percent from 2015.
The number is the highest the GRCVB has ever reported, despite House Bill 2, a state law that required people to use public bathrooms that match their birth gender and excluded gay and transgender people from discrimination protections.
Numerous concerts and conventions were canceled in the Raleigh area following the March 2016 passage of the controversial law. State lawmakers repealed the law this spring.
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“Despite growing competition in the marketplace, Raleigh and Wake County continue to rise as a destination of choice amongst visitors,” said Denny Edwards, president and CEO of the GRCVB. “Every sector of the hospitality community from our hotels and restaurants, attractions and retail stores benefit from the influx of outside money being spent in our area by visitors annually.”
GRCVB independently contracted with two travel and tourism research organizations to estimate key tourism statistics. The numbers show that Wake County set records across the board in 2016, including an average hotel occupancy rate of 70.1 percent (a slight year-over-year increase of 0.2 percent) and a 4.5 percent year-over-year increase in area hotels’ average daily rate (to $100.85). Lodging tax collections totaled $24.2 million, up 8.4 percent year-over-year, and prepared food and beverage collections rose 6.5 percent in 2016, amounting to $26.9 million.