Chamber Announces Record Breaking Tourism Numbers

August 27, 2020
By: Dwayne Page

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce is excited to share the recently released tourism report from U.S. Travel Association showing DeKalb County hitting a record-high of $51.20 Million in direct tourism expenditures. Chamber Director Suzanne Williams was overjoyed upon reviewing the recent report. “Tourism dollars are vitally important to DeKalb County’s economy,” Williams said.

“We are so fortunate to have Center Hill Lake, Edgar Evins State Park, Appalachian Center for Craft, and our many diverse businesses that fuel our tourism revenues including our annual events such as the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival, DeKalb County Fair, Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour, and other local music and art events. Our small-town charm, friendly people, and scenic beauty make DeKalb County a desirable place to live, work, play, and raise a family and all these factors keep our visitors coming back year after year.”

The report’s findings also show tourism’s value to DeKalb County taxpayers. Travel in DeKalb County generated 336 jobs, $3.00 Million in state tax revenue, and $6.62 Million in local tax revenue in 2019. On an average day in DeKalb County in 2019, tourist spending generated $140,268 in daily expenditures, produced $30,267 in daily payroll, created $18,140 daily in local tax revenues and $8,214 daily in state tax revenues. Without tourism, each DeKalb County household would have to pay an additional $885 in local taxes and $400 in state taxes each year. Those tax dollars support education, health and human services, public safety, business, and economic development “Although we will likely see a decline in next year’s numbers due to the COVID-19 crisis, we are still very happy and optimistic with this report prior to the pandemic” says Williams. DeKalb County ranks 34 out of 95 counties for tourism dollars in Tennessee.

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. Tennessee tourism was on a record track in the first three months of 2020 before COVID-19. The Coronavirus pandemic is the largest crisis to hit the travel, leisure and hospitality industries in history, shutting down almost all travel activities and threatening the security of businesses and employees the industry supports.

“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.”

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.

“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.

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development received $25 million in CARES Act funding to remarket the severely devastated industry to aid in its recovery, promote safety and inspire responsible travel. Funding will be used to demonstrate how travelers can safely enjoy activities and attractions; promote outdoor activities; a campaign with messaging around masks, social distancing and sanitization; and safety messaging, digital screens and infrastructure at all 16 Tennessee Welcome Centers. $15 million in grants is available for Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) in all 95 counties. Additional funding will support Tennessee State Parks and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber will be applying for CARES tourism funding to further promote our beautiful area and support safe travel with messages of social distancing, face coverings and sanitization.