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Tourism In Wake County Breaks Record in 2016

downtown Raleigh skyline
Flickr, Creative Commons,
A view of the downtown Raleigh skyline. Tourism was up 3.5 percent in 2016, to a record-setting 15.6 million visitors.

A record-setting 15.6 million tourists visited Wake County in 2016, up 3.5 percent from the previous year. Craft breweries, live music and museums were part of the draw, according to Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Dennis Edwards.But Edwards says the economic impact of House Bill 2, the controversial bathroom bill passed in 2016, may not be felt until 2018 and 2019.

"Those were the time periods where our conventions were canceled, so yes, we have a little time to hopefully fill those gaps," Edwards said.

Many businesses and some states said they would boycott North Carolina after HB2 became law in March 2016. The law imposed bathroom restrictions on transgender people. Some performers, companies and states also boycotted the state. The law was partially repealed this past March.

Edwards says tourism grew in part because of new direct flights from Austin, New Orleans and Paris. According to the bureau, visitors also spent a record $240 million last year.

"We're also seeing a big uptick in the culinary scene, new craft breweries, new distilleries and, certainly, the live music scene,” he said.

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