Tennessee tourism overtakes the nation with record economic impact

Tennessee welcomed 119 million domestic visitors in 2018, up 5.1% from 113 million a year earlier and hit a record $ 22 billion in domestic and international travel spending..Tennessee travelers spend about $ 60 million a day. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Tourism Development Commissioner Mark Ezell made the announcement at the Ford Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Tennessee’s growth exceeds the nation in all areas of travel; including tax revenue, expenditure, payroll and employment.

Tourism generated more than $ 50 million in new national and local taxes in 2018, including around $ 25 million for public education. The report’s findings also show the value of tourism to Tennessee taxpayers. Travel to Tennessee generated 189,757 jobs and $ 1.81 billion in local and state tax revenue. Without tourism, every Tennessee household would have to pay an additional $ 712 in taxes each year. Taxpayer money supports education, health and social services, public safety, businesses and economic development.

In 2018, Tennessee ranked third, after Pennsylvania and Colorado, for growth in international spending compared to 2017, according to Tourism Economics. The growth of international spending in Tennessee is 7 times the national average.

“From our thriving cities to our beautiful rural landscapes and everything in between, Tennessee has solidified its place as a leader in tourism across the country,” Lee said. “Our booming tourism sector overtakes the country in all categories. World-class food, music, and adventure are just a few of the things people find when they come to Tennessee, and luckily people are visiting this remarkable place more than ever.

“The various towns and cities of Tennessee offer quality tourism products and remarkable brands that attract visitors,” said Commissioner Mark Ezell. “We wouldn’t have these numbers if it weren’t for the renovations, the capital investment and the passion shown by tourism partners across the state. The millions of record-breaking people who come here learn about the music, history and culture, family experiences and scenic beauty that make Tennessee “America’s Soundtrack.”

Highlights of the report include:

  • Travel spending of $ 22.02 billion, 6% increase (Source: US Travel Association)
  • The growth rate was 20% higher than the national average of 4.9%
  • Tennessee travelers spend about $ 60 million a day.
  • 119.37 million domestic visitors, up 5.1% from 113 million in 2018, the strongest growth in the past 6 years.
  • Record setting – 81.3% of visitors were leisure travelers, an increase of 5.5%
  • Daily Expense Per Person – $ 128 (Source: DK Shifflet & Associates)
  • Tourism has generated 189,757 jobs for Tennessee residents, a 2.9% year-over-year percentage growth.
  • Travel to Tennessee generated $ 1.81 billion in state and local tax revenue. (Source: US Travel Association)
  • Tax revenue generated from travel translates into $ 712 in annual tax savings at the state and local levels for the average household in Tennessee (Source: US Travel Association, US Census Bureau)
  • Travel and tourism is the state’s second largest industry in terms of employment (Source: US Travel Association)
  • In 2018, Tennessee ranked third, after Pennsylvania and Colorado, for growth in international spending compared to 2017 (Source: Tourism Economics)
  • The growth of international spending is 7 times higher than the national average.
  • 5.4% TN vs 0.8% US
  • All 95 counties saw an increase in domestic travel spending
  • Each county has seen more than a million dollars in direct travel spending in the economic impact of tourism. (Source: US Travel Association)

In response to Governor Lee’s first executive order to better serve rural Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development received funding from the state budget to establish the Office of Rural Tourism and Outreach, headed by the Assistant Commissioner Melanie Beauchamp. The new office will provide outreach services and resources specifically to help counties at risk and in distress.

The Tennessee Department of Tourism Development works with the Tennessee Tourism Committee, local convention and visitor offices, chambers of commerce, city and county leaders, tourist attractions, and the hospitality industry in all 95 counties to help bring travelers into the state.

To view the full report, click here. County-by-county snapshots will be shared at the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association Governors’ Conference in Nashville September 4-6. For more information, contact Jill Kilgore, media public relations manager for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, at 615-927-1320 or by email at [email protected].


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