By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
UPPER CUMBERLAND – It was another record-setting year of economic impact. The state’s 2017 Tourism Annual Report revealed, for the 11th consecutive year, tourism topped $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue, reaching $1.7 billion; marking a 6.7 percent increase over 2015, higher than the national growth of travel related state tax revenues.
The state also reportedly welcomed a record 110 million guests last year; reaching $19.3 billion in economic impact and marking the first time tourism generated more than $1 billion in state tax revenue, according to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
“As our state’s No. 2 industry, tourism’s success is a testimony to the visionary leaders and dedicated workforce who welcome guests to Tennessee throughout the year,” said Gov. Bill Haslam in a statement.
The 14 counties of the Upper Cumberland play host to a variety of festivals and events each year. Combined with nearly a dozen state parks across the region, each nearby attraction and event funnels additional tourism-driven revenue into the region.
Millions generated in direct tourism, per UC county, in 2016:
• Cannon – $4.05 million
• Clay – $6.94 million
• Cumberland – $113.53 million
• DeKalb – $44.99 million
• Fentress – $12.48 million
• Jackson – $2.03 million
• Macon – $7.64 million
• Overton – $7.72 million
• Pickett – $7.39 million
• Putnam – $123.06 million
• Smith – $11.79 million
• Van Buren – $9.54 million
• Warren – $23.80 million
• White – $20.70 million
Locally speaking, the impact from regional tourism spending means UC families pay less in taxes. For example, when looking at extremes, without the boost from local tourism spending, each household in DeKalb County could pay upwards of $1,200 in state and local taxes, according to the 2016 Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee Counties report. Meanwhile, according to the same report, Jackson County households would likely pay an additional $98 in state and local taxes while other 12 counties of the UC land somewhere between the two extremes.
According to the state’s annual report, all of the state’s 95 counties saw more than $1 million in direct travel expenditures in the economic impact of tourism and 19 counties saw more than $100 million.
Regionally speaking, several nearby attractions and events received awards and recognition including the Cookeville History Museum (2017 Award of Commendation for “World War I: A View from the Eastern Front”, Tennessee Association of Museums, June 2017), Cream City Ice Cream & Coffee House (One of the Sweetest Little Ice Cream Shops in Tennessee, Only in Your State, Feb. 2017) , Stonehenge Golf Club, Heatherhurst Brae Golf Course (Top Five 2017 Best Courses You Can Play in Tennessee, Golfweek Magazine, April 2017), and Bluegrass Underground (The 10 Best Places to See Live Music — Ranked No. 2, Southwest Magazine, Sept. 2016). This year, the announcement of the 2017 Southern Backroads HOG Rally garnered more than 4.7 million impressions making it one of Tennessee’s top tourism-related stories of 2017.
According to Kevin Triplett, Commissioner of Tourism, visitation to Tennessee has increased by more than 10 million in the last three years and, in the last five years, tourism’s economic impact has increased by nearly $5 billion.
Tennessee reportedly experienced increases across the board in all five economic impact categories – travel expenditures (4.7 percent), payroll (5.6), employment (3.3), state tax (6.7), and local tax (5.3).