Governor Bill Haslam on Friday expressed his support for the tourism industry in Tennessee in his address to tourism professionals during the 2012 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Sevierville.
The newly released 2011 Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee study showed Tennessee tourism’s total direct economic impact at $15.36 billion, an increase of 8.7 percent over 2010. This is the first time the state has exceeded $15 billion, and at $1.2 billion, it is the largest single increase year over year.
“Tourism in our great state saw a 1.6 percent increase in the number of jobs, reporting 177,800 tourism jobs statewide, and had an economic impact of more than $15 billion,” Governor Haslam said. “These achievements are shared by tourism employees committed to showcasing the best of Tennessee to the traveling public, and I want to congratulate the entire industry.”
State Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker presented her annual state of the industry address during Thursday’s luncheon, announcing the latest tourism statistics as reported by U.S. Travel Association.
For the sixth consecutive year, tourism business generated more than a billion dollars in state and local sales tax revenue, with a 2011 total of $1.17 billion. For the second year in a row, all 95 Tennessee counties had an increase in direct tourism expenditures, with 23 counties showing increases of 10 percent or more. International visitor spending increased to $450.2 million, a 14.6 percent increase over 2010, exceeding the 12.2 percent national average increase.
“Thanks to the collective hard work of our tourism industry, we saw a record-setting 54 million person-trips to Tennessee in 2011, now ranking us ninth among all states in total travel,” Ms. Whitaker said. “Tennessee tourism continues to move the needle when it comes to increasing travel to our state. Our goal for more visitors, staying longer, spending more keeps driving the industry’s growth and success.”
The Sevierville Governor’s Conference host committee rolled out the red carpet for attendees. The theme was “Playing Tourism’s Song,” a play on the state’s branding campaign “Tennessee, We’re Playing Your Song.” Sevier County area attractions hosted an opening night event at Wilderness at the Smokies and offered conference attendees discounts or free admission to area attractions.
“We are thrilled to have Tennessee’s tourism professionals in our city and in Sevier County. This is the first time the Conference has been in Sevierville,” said Brenda McCroskey, Tennessee Tourism Roundtable chair and CEO, Sevierville Chamber of Commerce. “Our goal was to make this the best conference ever and with amazing participation, we made it happen.”
This year’s event brought some of tourism’s most respected professionals to address the tourism industry, including keynote speaker Joel Manby, president and chief executive officer, Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation.
Additional highlights at the conference included educational seminars offering a wide range of relevant topics vital to the tourism industry including social media marketing, adventure tourism and advertising strategies. Each seminar offered expert panelists along with in-depth presentations and discussion.
The Governor’s Conference on Tourism informs, updates and inspires tourism partners from across the state through keynote speakers, seminars, networking and the annual state of the industry presentation. The event is a partnership between the Department of Tourist Development and the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable.
For more information contact Cindy Dupree, director of public relations for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, at 615 418-5752 or by email at Cindy.Dupree@tn.gov.