Travel numbers show major economic impact in NE Tennessee

Published 3:55 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

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Recently released numbers from the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development show tourism in Tennessee hit a record-high $28.9 billion in domestic and international travel spending in 2022, also marking one of the strongest years in Northeast Tennessee for the Hospitality & Tourism industry.
Locally, all eight counties representing Northeast Tennessee generated over $841 million economic impact to the region in visitor spending, up $68 million from the previous year. All counties of Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington had significant increases in visitor spending, wages paid to employees, employment, as well as state and local tax receipts.
Records indicate that tourism activity supported $87 million in business sales in Carter County last year, which was up from $30.9 million in 2015 and $55.2 million in 2022. Visitors spent $19.4 million on transportation locally, $14.4 million on food and beverage, $9.03 million on accommodations, $8.71 million on recreation, and $3.92 million on retail.
Spending by tourists to Carter County generated 1.8 percent in the share of jobs sustained by direct visitor spending. Visitors directly generated $4.7 million in state and local taxes, which is equivalent to $200 in tax savings for every household. Tourism income also supported 365 jobs.
“Tourism remains a pivotal force in driving the local economy of Northeast Tennessee,” stated Alicia Phelps, the Executive Director of the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association. “Of equal significance are the remarkable percentage increases in our rural communities, which consistently prioritize tourism as a key catalyst for economic development. When we combine these endeavors with the internationally renowned destinations in our area, it becomes evident that 2023 has already proven to be a highly successful year, with projections suggesting an even more prosperous outcome than 2022.”
Statewide, Tennessee tourism generated $29 billion in direct visitor spending and saw 141 million visitors to the state in 2022. Tax dollars generated by tourism support important public services like education, health and safety. The 2022 Economic Impact on Travel Report includes county snapshots, comprehensive models of the economic impact of spending by industry and an online interactive dashboard for the latest state and county information.
“Tennessee is thriving as tourism continues to soar, from our large cities to small towns,” said Mark Ezell, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “Our industry’s hard work is paying off with record levels of visitor spending and significantly outpacing inflation. It is our privilege to showcase these numbers and express our gratitude to our partners, attractions, elected leaders and visitors who made a record year for Tennessee.”
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. The organization was named Tennessee’s Destination Marketing Organization of the year in 2019 and 2023, and also serves as one of nine statewide regional tourism organizations recognized by Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. Tourism generates more than $841 million locally in Northeast Tennessee each year.

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