Why tourism matters

Hank Hayes • Sep 3, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Tourism’s economic impact in Tennessee continues on an uptick.

Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Kevin Triplett have announced that Tennessee tourism’s direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached an all-time record high of $20.77 billion in 2017, as reported by the U.S. Travel Association. The figure was an increase of 6.3 percent over the previous year and higher than the national growth of 5.2 percent.

All eight Northeast Tennessee counties generated more than $835 million in economic impact to the region from domestic travel.

The counties of Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington had increases in overall economic impact from previous years, according to the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association. Payroll from tourism generated more than $178 million, and sales tax revenue topped $48 million.

“Northeast Tennessee continues to grow as a top destination for business and leisure travel each year,” Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association Executive Director Alicia Phelps said. “Jobs are created, tourist related businesses and programs continue to develop, and the communities feel the positive impact of each dollar spent by folks visiting our area.”

The Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association, chartered in 1977, is a non-profit tourism agency that serves and supports Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties, as well as portions of Southwest Virginia. The organization also serves as one of nine statewide regional tourism organizations recognized by Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

All 95 counties had an increase in tourism expenditures. Each county saw more than $1 million in direct travel expenditures in the economic impact of tourism. An increase in leisure travelers also led to a jump in overnight stays. Tennessee places among the Top 10 travel destinations in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive year and is considered a top retirement destination.

“Counties, cities and rural communities work hard to make our state a premier destination, welcoming visitors from around the world,” Haslam said. “Our state’s second biggest industry continues to see outstanding growth, break visitation records, boost Tennessee’s economy and create new jobs. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Tennessee Tourism Committee continue to produce record results that fuel our state’s economy.”

Said Tourism Commissioner Kevin Triplett: “The growth of the tourism industry and its economic impact comes from guests discovering the world-class food, history and culture, scenic beauty and outdoors and experiences that make Tennessee ‘The Soundtrack of America.’ The authenticity and Southern hospitality from our communities and partners gives visitors an unbeatable experience and inspires them to return. The numbers show Tennessee is a destination of choice for visitors around the world. However, we would not have these numbers if not for the capital investments, renovations and dedication made by tourism partners across the state to deliver great experiences that create wonderful memories.” 

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