UPPER CUMBERLAND – More spending. More jobs. And, apparently, more visitors.
While the state celebrated its best travel year yet, there was also cause for celebration in the Upper Cumberland. After a relatively flat 2013, tourism spending in the region increased nearly 5 percent in 2014, its best year-over-year gain since 2012.
Visitors to the UC spent $377.34 million in 2014, up from $359.62 the year before. Payroll increased 2.6 percent. And job gains, while minimal, also improved, according to the latest statistics from the 2014 Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee as reported by U.S. Travel Association.
Putnam County topped the region in tourism expenditures for the second straight year with a 7.6 percent increase – it ranks 16th out of 95 counties in Tennessee in that category – while Cumberland saw a bigger jobs and payroll payoff from its travelers. Officials with the Cumberland County Playhouse, which has been ranked as a top Tennessee attraction in the past, said they’ve witness first-hand their county’s growth. The Playhouse has served more than 5 million visitors in its 50-year history, averaging more than 100,000 visits each year.
“We’re proud that (the) Cumberland County Playhouse helps our county rank among Tennessee’s top rural counties in tourism revenue and in the top 20 of all 95 Volunteer State counties,” Jim Crabtree, Playhouse producing director, said. “We use Tennessee suppliers, employ Tennessee artists, technicians and administrators, and serve audience members traveling from every state and many nations, who buy lodging, meals, retail items and automotive needs.”
Putnam County’s tourism spending increase, meanwhile, beat the state average. That marks the second consecutive year that it’s broken previous records for tourism expenditures.
“We’re highly pleased to see these numbers reinforcing the fact that our community partners strive daily to make Cookeville and Putnam County a tourist destination,” said Zach Ledbetter, Convention & Visitors Bureau manager, Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce.
Editor’s Note: See the complete report here: 2014 Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee Counties
State sees record tourism expenditures
Overall, the U.S. Travel Association report was an overly optimistic one for the state, as announced Tuesday by Gov. Bill Haslam during a special event at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
Direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached $17.7 billion in Tennessee in 2014, up 6.3 percent, and an all-time high.
Tourism-generated jobs for Tennesseans reached 152,900, an increase of 2.8 percent. State and local sales tax revenue for the industry topped $1.5 billion, up 7 percent over 2013, and the ninth consecutive year tourism topped $1 billion.
“Tourists are drawn to Tennessee for our world-renown music, outstanding attractions and stunning scenic beauty. But, at the end of the day, people keep coming to Tennessee for our authenticity and exceptional, Southern hospitality.” – Kevin Triplett, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development
Also for the first time in history, travel to Tennessee topped 100 million, achieving 101.3 million person stays, a 5.1 percent increase over 2013. International travel increased 8.4 percent, reaching $576.5 million in economic impact. All 95 counties in Tennessee had more than $1 million in direct travel expenditures, 19 counties saw more than $100 million, and three counties, Davidson, Shelby and Sevier, had more than $1 billion in economic impact. Knox and Hamilton counties round out the top 5 with nearly $1 billion in economic impact.
Tennessee is ranked in the Top 10 destinations in the U.S. for total travel.
“This increase in tourism across the board is a result of the strategic work of tourist development, the tourism committee, and the entire tourism and hospitality industry,” Haslam said in a release. “We want Tennessee to be a place people from all over the world want to visit. The data shows that’s happening, and more jobs and $1.5 billion in sales tax revenue is good news for every Tennessean.”
Tennessee’s customer satisfaction landed at an 8.5 out of 10. The satisfaction scores are greater than those of the average U.S. destination.
“Tourists are drawn to Tennessee for our world-renown music, outstanding attractions and stunning scenic beauty,” Kevin Triplett, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, said. “But, at the end of the day, people keep coming to Tennessee for our authenticity and exceptional, Southern hospitality. That is the ‘made in Tennessee’ brand delivered to our visitors every day by our communities and partners.”
The Tennessee Tourism Committee, appointed in 2011 by Haslam, is made up of tourism leaders in both the public and private sectors. TTC is chaired by Colin Reed, Ryman Hospitality Properties Inc., and co-chaired by Jack Soden, Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc., and Sande Weiss, president of Music Road Resort. There are no Upper Cumberland representatives on the committee.
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