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 and tourism industry.
Locally, all eight Northeast Tennessee counties combined to generate over $841 million economic impact to the region in visitor spending. That is an increase of $68 million from the previous year.
The counties of Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington reported significant increases in visitor spending, wages paid to employees, employment, as well as state and local tax receipts, according to the statement.
Nearly 6,900 people are employed in hospitality and tourism related jobs across the region.
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“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.”
Sullivan County reported nearly $330 million in economic impact from tourism in 2022, generating more than $80.2 million for more than 2,500 employees, according to the report.
That represents 7% of total employees countywide.
Travel and tourism generated $20.4 million in state taxes and $13 million in local taxes, the highest among eight Northeast Tennessee counties.
Washington County ranked second with $305.6 million generating $81 million for 2,800 employees, or 9% countywide. Tourism generated nearly $20 million in state taxes and $11 million in local taxes for the county in 2022.
Tourism supports nearly 6,900 regional jobs and generates $51.2 million in state taxes and nearly $32 million in local taxes, according to the report.
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.”