Tennessee tourism generated $24.2 billion in domestic and international travel spending in 2021, according to recently released economic impact data from U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics. It also marks the largest visitor spending nationally in Tennessee’s history. Travelers in Tennessee spend an estimated $66 million per day. Travel in Tennessee generated $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue. Travel and tourism is also the third largest employer in the state.
Of the money spent locally, 31% went to the food and beverage industry, 29% was spent on transportation, 20% was used for lodging, 11% was spent in local retail stores and the remaining 8% was used for recreation.
In 2021, tourists helped generate over $54,900 in taxes daily in Rutherford County, according to the state. As a result of taxes generated by tourists’ activity in Rutherford County last year, each household saved approximately $436 in state and local taxes.
The food and beverage industry reaped the largest share of tourist revenue in Rutherford County between 2015 and 2021. Transportation came in second, followed by lodging. Local retailers have seen an average of $69.5-million annually over the past 6-years in Rutherford County.
Overall, Rutherford County ranked at number 7 out of 95-counties in visitor spending last year, compared to 2020.
TENNESSEE OVERALL - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell highlighted efforts to continue the industry’s strong recovery.
“Tourism drives economic development and job creation so that every Tennessean can thrive,” said Gov. Lee. “Our decision to prioritize strong recovery has yielded record levels of tourism growth, and we continue to welcome visitors to see all Tennessee has to offer, from the Mississippi River to the Great Smoky Mountains.”
“Tennessee is crushing it with the largest visitor spending national market share for Tennesseans in our history,” said Mark Ezell, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “Tennessee is one of the top travel destinations in the world because of our tremendous assets including our unmatched scenic beauty, diverse cities, and small towns, as well as our world class attractions, music, cultural and historical sites. We’re so grateful to this industry and our partners and blessed visitors come experience these destinations and support local businesses, local restaurants and local lodging and support communities.”
Key Highlights from 2021 report:
- Tennessee tourism generated a record $24 billion in domestic travel spending
- Travel and tourism is the third largest employer in TN in 2021
- Travelers in Tennessee spend an estimated $66 million per day. Visitor spending in Tennessee increased by 44.4%, year over year. Visitor spending nationally increased by 35.7%, year over year
- All 95 counties saw an increase in visitor spending over 2020
- 51 counties fully recovered and exceeded their 2019 visitor spending record
- Nine counties experienced more than 40% growth in year-over-year travel spending, including Davidson, Cheatham, Sevier, Union, Polk, Grundy, Knox, Blount and Hamilton
- Five counties experienced more than 40% growth over 2019 travel spending, including: Cheatham, Union, Lake, Hickman and Meigs
- Travel in Tennessee generated $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue in 2021
- Travel-generated tax revenue generated by tourism saved each Tennessee household $755.41 in state and local taxes last year
Leisure & Hospitality Industry Highlights
(source: TN Dept. of Revenue & TN Department of Labor & Workforce Development)
- Leisure & hospitality industries supported 317,000 jobs in 2021, an 8% increase from 2020 and 91% of 2019 levels
- Leisure & hospitality revenues have recovered to record levels and outpaced inflation
- Leisure & hospitality employment has returned to pre-pandemic levels but still struggles to keep up with travel demand
- Average leisure & hospitality wages have surged as the industry competes for a limited number of workers. Leisure & hospitality wages increased to $17.71 in June 2020, compared to $14.14 in 2020.
The 2021 Economic Impact on Travel Report includes county data and comprehensive models of the economic impact of spending by industry. Partners and media can utilize the new online interactive dashboard for the latest state and county information. Economic Impact on Travel Report booklets will be handed out at the Governor’s Conference on Hospitality & Tourism Sept. 28-30 in Memphis.
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development works with the Tennessee Tourism Committee, local convention and visitors’ bureaus, chambers of commerce, city and county leaders, tourism attractions and the hospitality industry in all 95 counties to inspire travel to the state.