AUG. 25– Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Kevin Triplett announced Tuesday that Tennessee tourism’s direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached an all-time record high of $19.3 billion in 2016, up 4.7 percent over the previous year, as reported by the U.S. Travel Association.
The numbers rose significantly for Hardin County as well, officials said.
“Tourism is a major contributor to our economic growth. Our county and city leaders – and residents – understand the impact that tourism generates. It creates jobs and saves our residents tax dollars,” said Hardin County Tourism Director Beth Pippin.
In Hardin County, guests reportedly spent a total of $40.94 million in 2016, an increase of 4.2 percent compared to 2015, generating a total of $2.49 million in state and $3.57 million in local tax revenues, increases of 6.1 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively. A total of 247 Hardin countians are employed in tourism-related fields, the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development reports.
“We attract mainly heritage tourism and recreational visitors. Our Hardin County Convention and Visitors Bureau uses our marketing dollars wisely to promote Hardin County. We have an active plan that includes multiple interests and Hardin County capitalizes on the investments we make,” said Pippin.
For the 11th consecutive year, tourism topped $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue, reaching $1.7 billion. That marks a 6.7 percent increase over 2015, higher than the national growth of travel related state tax revenues. Tourism generated 176,500 jobs for Tennesseans, a 3.3 percent growth year over year.
“More people from around the world continue to visit Tennessee each year,” Haslam said. “The $1.7 billion in sales tax revenue and job growth are good news for everyone in Tennessee. The hard work of the tourism industry, led by the Department of Tourist Development and Tennessee Tourism Committee, continues to produce record results and dedication to boost Tennessee’s economy.”
Five counties exceeded $1 billion in travel expenditures including Davidson ($5.996 billion), Shelby ($3.335 billion), Sevier ($2.217 billion), Hamilton ($1.060 billion), and Knox ($1.056 billion). All 95 counties saw more than $1 million in direct travel expenditures in the economic impact of tourism and 19 counties saw more than $100 million.
“The economic impact growth of the tourism industry is a result of guests from around the world discovering everything that makes Tennessee ‘The Soundtrack of America,’” Triplett said. “It starts with what we have; the music, history, culture and experiences. It is enhanced by how those things are managed. The authenticity and Southern hospitality from our communities and partners create an environment for our guests in a way not only that helps them enjoy their stay but motivates them to return. These numbers are a reflection of Tennessee becoming a destination of choice. But a critical component of this is they do not include the staggering capital investments being made by tourism partners across the state to enhance the experience.”
In another record previously announced during National Travel and Tourism Week, 110 million people visited the state in 2016, up 4.4 percent from 2015, as reported by D.K Shifflet & Associates. 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 third consecutive year and is considered a top retirement destination.
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development doesn’t achieve these numbers alone. In 2011 Haslam appointed the Tennessee Tourism Committee, made up of tourism leaders in both the public and private sectors.
The department also works with local convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce and city and county leaders in all 95 counties to help draw people to the state.