Tennessee tourism topped the nation in 2020 with $16.8 billion in visitor spending despite COVID-19


Nashville, TN – Tennessee tourism generated $16.8 billion in domestic and international travel spending in 2020, down 31.6% from the previous year according to recently released economic impact data from the US Travel Association and Tourism Economics.

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Tennessee travel has generated nearly 150,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, efforts to promote outdoor travel opportunities have helped Tennessee surpass the national average decline of 42%.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Department of Tourism Development Commissioner Mark Ezell highlighted efforts to continue the industry’s strong recovery.

“Tourism is a vital part of our state’s strong economic recovery,” Governor Lee said. “By working together to support small businesses and drive job growth, we’ll ensure Tennessee continues to be one of the world’s top travel destinations.”

“Tennessee’s scenic beauty, strong outdoor assets, and attractive rural and highway destinations have given it an edge over other states,” said Mark Ezell, commissioner of the Department of Tourism Development. “We have seen parts of our state not only survive but also thrive. Our mission as a department is to inspire travel in all 95 counties, and we are committed to restoring economic prosperity to our industry.

Additional highlights from the 2020 report:

  • In the first two months of 2020, Tennessee’s leisure and hospitality industry was on an all-time high. The COVID-19 coronavirus has been the biggest crisis to hit the leisure and hospitality industry in history.
  • In 2020, tourism has shifted from business and solo trips to longer, leisure-oriented family trips.
    • Outdoor attractions saw historic growth in 2020. For example, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw a record 12 million visitors.
    • 15 counties in Tennessee saw an increase in travel spending. Grainger County, Van Buren County, Cheatham County, Hickman County, Campbell County, and Union County saw increases of more than 5%.
  • Tourism was Tennessee’s fourth largest employer in 2020.
  • The state of Tennessee saw 75 million national stays.
  • Revenue generated from tourism saved every household in Tennessee $550 in state and local taxes last year.
  • The decline in state tax revenue from sales and use represented a $303 million loss to the state budget between March and December 2020.


the Travel Economic Impact Report 2020 includes newly expanded county snapshots with additional data that will be available August 10. A new dashboard with county data and comprehensive models of the economic impact of spending by industry will be launched at Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Hospitality September 15-17 in Murfreesboro.

About the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development

The Tennessee Department of Tourism Development works with the Tennessee Tourism Committee, local convention and visitor bureaus, chambers of commerce, city and county leaders, tourist attractions and hospitality industries in all 95 counties to inspiring trips to the state.

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