Travel numbers hit new record for economic impact to northeast Tennessee


Recently released numbers from U.S. Travel Association show tourism in Tennessee hit a record $23 billion in domestic and international travel spending in 2019, marking a decade of consecutive growth.

Locally, all eight counties of in northeast Tennessee generated more than $911 million economic impact to the region from domestic travel, up more than $33 million from the previous year. The counties of Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington had increases in economic impact from previous years.

Overall, Tennessee also saw 126 million domestic person stays in 2019, up 5.7 percent from 119 million the previous year. Tennessee tourism was on a record track in the first three months of 2020 before COVID-19. The Coronavirus pandemic is the largest crisis to hit the travel, leisure and hospitality industries in history, shutting down almost all travel activities and threatening the security of businesses and employees the industry supports.

“Tennessee is a world-renowned destination, and I look forward to the time when we can gather together again at our festivals, sporting events and more,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Tourism is our state’s second largest industry. Coming off another record year, this data underscores the tremendous positive tourism impact on our state’s revenue. As we’ve seen now more than ever, travel and tourism are vital to restoring economic health and recovery in Tennessee.”

“I encourage travelers to safely explore, support local businesses and attractions, create family memories, discover outdoor scenic beauty where social distancing is a natural, take road trips, explore rural destinations and hidden gems that drive visitation,” said Commissioner Mark Ezell, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “Our goal is to become the best non-beach tourism state in America. We’re constantly exploring new opportunities to inspire growth across the state, drive jobs and economic growth, including in rural, at-risk and distressed counties.”

In 2019, Tennessee outpaced the nation in all areas of travel; including tax revenue, expenditures, payroll and employment. The leisure and hospitality industry produced more jobs than any other industry. Last year, travelers in Tennessee spent an estimated $64 million per day. Tourism generated over $75 million in new state and local tax dollars in 2019, approximately half of which directly supports public education. Those tax dollars also support public safety, health and human services, business and economic development. Travel in Tennessee generated 195,000 jobs and $1.92 billion in state and local tax revenue. Revenue generated saved each household in the state $748 in taxes, an increased savings of almost $40 compared to 2018.

“Northeast Tennessee continues to grow as a top destination for business and leisure travel each year,” Executive Director of Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association Alicia Phelps said. With the support of our region, jobs are created, tourist related businesses and programs continue to develop, and our communities feel the positive impact of each dollar spent by folks visiting the area. This is an exciting time as we continue to work together to grow and showcase what makes Northeast Tennessee a great place to live and visit, when the time is right.”

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