Tourism Business in DeKalb County Continues to Increase

August 29, 2019
By: Dwayne Page

Tourism is big business in DeKalb County and getting bigger.

Suzanne Williams, Director of the Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce addressed the County Commission Monday night with some good economic news.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, DeKalb County’s tourism dollars increased by 3.16% from the previous year to $49.54 million. That’s up about $1.5 million. DeKalb County generated the third highest amount of tourism dollars in the 14-county Upper Cumberland region behind Putnam and Cumberland Counties.

The report’s findings also show tourism’s value to DeKalb County taxpayers. Travel in DeKalb County generated 330 jobs and about $11 million in tourism payroll, $2,880,000 in state dollars, and $6,440,000 in new local tax dollars in 2018. 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.

“Tourism dollars are vitally important to DeKalb County’s economy. 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,” said Williams.

As Tennessee’s No. 2 industry, tourism has had another exceptional year, continuing to break visitation records and exceed economic impact numbers year over year. Tennessee’s skyrocketing growth is due in great part to key tourism partners throughout the state who invest in new attractions, groundbreaking expansions and important improvements. Those partnerships and efforts are reflected in our Annual Report and Economic Impact reports.

Tennessee saw 119 million domestic visitors in 2018, up 5.1 percent from 113 million the previous year and hit a record-high $2.2 billion in domestic and international travel spending. Travelers in Tennessee spend an estimated $60 million per day. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell made the announcement at the Ford Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Tennessee’s growth is outpacing the nation in all areas of travel; including tax revenue, expenditures, payroll and employment. “From our thriving cities to our beautiful rural landscapes and everything in between, Tennessee has solidified its place as a leader in tourism across the country,” Governor Lee said. “Our booming tourism sector is outpacing the nation in every category.”

“Tennessee’s diverse cities and small towns offer quality tourism products and remarkable brands that drive visitation,” said Commissioner Mark Ezell. “We would not have these numbers if it weren’t for renovations, capital investments and passion shown by tourism partners across the state. The record-breaking millions who come here discover the music, history and culture, family experiences and scenic beauty that make Tennessee ‘The Soundtrack of America.

In response to Governor Lee’s first executive order to better serve rural Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development received state budget funding to create the Office of Rural Tourism and Outreach, led by Assistant Commissioner Melanie Beauchamp. The new office will provide outreach and resources specifically to help at-risk and distressed counties.

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 help bring travelers to the state.