County’s tourism spending tops $239 million

The Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield is one of the major tourist attractions in Johnston County. Contributed Photo

Sarah Docent, a volunteer at the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, helps a customer in the gift shop. The museum is a major tourism draw in Johnston County. Contributed Photo












From staff reports

SMITHFIELD — Visitors and tourists added more than $239 million to Johnston County’s economy in 2017, state officials say, an increase of 2.75 percent from the previous year.

Visit North Carolina, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina’s domestic tourism arm, made the announcement last week. The figures are from a report on the economic impact of travel to North Carolina counties.

“It goes to show how important tourism is to our county and highlights how important the Interstate 95 corridor is to the county and particular to the communities that make up the Triangle East region of the county,” said Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Mancuso. “ Over the next few years, the continued development of the I-42 corridor and commuter rail  from Princeton, Selma, Willson’s Mill and Clayton will play a key role in continuing this growth.”

Mancuso said a conference center in the Smithfield-Selma hotel district would raise Johnston County’s draw of tourist dollars.

“This would allow us to attract in large national groups and continue to grow the hospitality and retail industries that account for 31 percent of our county’s employment,” said Mancuso. “To support the hospitality, restaurant and retail industries, the chamber is launching the Chamber Retail Support Network as a full division of the chamber. We will be working directly with theses industries to support their development and operational needs.”

Among the 2017 report’s highlights: The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 1,830 people in Johnston County, total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Johnston County was $39.29 million, visitor spending generated $19.49 million in state and local taxes, which reduces taxes per household in Johnston County by $286.

This study is not customized for Johnston County assets like Carolina Premium Outlets retail sales and outlet shopping employees numbers.

“I’m very excited about the trajectory for our county indicated in this report,” said Johnston County Economic Development Director Chris Johnson. “Any time additional revenue offsets citizens’ taxes, that’s great. Tourism revenue helps pay for schools and other infrastructure.”

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing organization representing visitor industry businesses across the county. Its 2017-18 report is available online via the shortened link

For information on working with the visitors bureau, including how to apply for matching marketing grants or capital grants, visit or call 919-989-8687.

Leave a Comment