Blount County Tourism Sees Growth Spike
As a gateway to the Smoky Mountains, Blount County ranked eighth among Tennessee’s 95 counties in visitor expenditures at $425.55 million in 2019 according to the Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee Counties report issued by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Gov. Bill Lee.
Recently released numbers from U.S. Travel Association show tourism in Tennessee hit a record-high $23 billion in domestic and international travel spending in 2019, marking a decade of consecutive growth. Tennessee also saw 126 million domestic person stays in 2019, up 5.7 percent from 119 million the previous year.
In 2019, Tennessee outpaced the nation in all areas of travel; including tax revenue, expenditures, payroll and employment. The leisure and hospitality industry produced more jobs than any other industry. Last year, travelers in Tennessee spent an estimated $64 million per day. Tourism generated over $75 million in new state and local tax dollars in 2019, approximately half of which directly supports public education. Those tax dollars also support public safety, health and human services, business and economic development. Travel in Tennessee generated 195,000 jobs and $1.92 billion in state and local tax revenue. Revenue generated saved each household in the state $748 in taxes, an increased savings of almost $40 compared to 2018.
Blount County’s $425.55 million in visitor spending represents an increase of nearly $18 million from 2018 and over $168 million from 2009. In fact, on an average day in 2019, tourist spending in Blount County generated $1.165 million in daily expenditures and created $309.560 in daily payroll and $39,408 in local tax revenues.
Because of the taxes generated by visitor activity in Blount County, each household sees a savings of $754 in local and state taxes.
Davidson County, which includes the city of Nashville, topped all county indices with $7.5 billion in tourism economic impact. Shelby County was second at $3.8 billion, Sevier third at $2.6 billion, Knox was fourth at $1.22 billion and Hamilton fifth at $1.21 billion. Williamson County entered at sixth with $497 million and Sullivan County was seventh at $427 million.
“The growth of the tourism industry in the state and in particular Blount County has been tremendous,” said Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority Director Kim Mitchell. “We see these positive results as a success of our focused and strategic regional and national marking efforts to promote Blount County as place for outdoor tourism and a meeting destination.”
Tourism jobs in the county were at an all-time high of 3,690 which also led to an all-time high payroll of $112.99 million.
Local tax receipts of $13.38 million was the sixth-highest total in the state, while state tax receipts totaled $23.45 million, both records for the county.
From 2018 to 2019, Blount county saw marked percentage increases in visitor expenditures (4.3%), payroll (2.9%), employment (1.2%), state tax receipts (5.1%) and local tax receipts (3.9%).
"Tennessee is a world-renowned destination, and I look forward to the time when we can gather together again at our festivals, sporting events and more," said Gov. Bill Lee. "Tourism is our state's second largest industry. Coming off another record year, this data underscores the tremendous positive tourism impact on our state's revenue. As we've seen now more than ever, travel and tourism are vital to restoring economic health and recovery in Tennessee."
All 95 counties saw an increase in economic impact with each having more than $1 million in direct travel spending, and 21 counties saw more than $100 million.
"With our businesses taking the Tennessee Pledge, our restaurants, businesses and attractions are ready for safe travel," said Commissioner Mark Ezell, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. "I encourage travelers to safely explore, support local businesses and attractions, create family memories, discover outdoor scenic beauty where social distancing is a natural, take road trips, explore rural destinations and hidden gems that drive visitation. Our goal is to become the best non-beach tourism state in America. We're constantly exploring new opportunities to inspire growth across the state, drive jobs and economic growth, including in rural, at-risk and distressed counties."
"Tourism is a significant economic driver for our state; ensuring we are able to maintain a safe environment for both visitors and residents is necessary to the livelihoods of the many people who depend on this industry," said Craig Ross, Chairman of Tennessee Tourism Committee and President of Dollywood.