Hatfield and McCoy Dinner show in Pigeon Forge one of many shows experiencing a big summer for guests. (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)
SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Tennessee tourism was a 15.36 billion dollar generator for the state's economy in 2011. That information was released on Thursday as part of the annual report released by the state's commissioner on tourism, Susan Whitaker.
Whitaker says she's had to keep the news for a month that Tennessee saw its best year ever for tourism, one of the state's largest industries. Travel is up by more than 8% and Tennessee now ranks 9th in the country for overall travel.
"We have a huge unaided brand awareness in those markets we want to get into meaning people know Tennessee, and they think favorably of Tennessee, we were right behind California and Florida," said Whitacker. "Every time there's an increase in people you have to have people to service them and that's job creation. We're really glad that we have an industry that's been resilient it's bounced back when other industries haven't been able to bounce back."
She said tourism is up in all 95 counties across the state, so everyone is seeing benefits of the job creation and tax revenues.
"Because they get to share in all that tax revenue that's coming back to their counties. they can use for what ever they need for roads education and all those kinds of purposes," she added.
While tourism is up, even in Knox County by more than 8%, Knoxville did fall behind Chattanooga to be ranked 5th in the state for tourism. Kim Bumpas, President of Visit Knoxville, says new marketing efforts should drive Knoxville up again.
"Right now Knoxville has something that we have not been telling the world about. in a more proactive way," said Bumpas. "I do think it's all relative and how you look at the what was going on in the economy and just peoples buying patters at the time. It's not a huge different in respect that equated for that change."
Bumpas says Knoxville will focus on the leisure travel, and promote cultural events that are going on in the downtown area.
"Knoxville is kind of coming into its own for the leisure perspective. We really think with the way that we're going to be looking at Visit Knoxville and pushing forward, we're really going to be able to rebound that," Bumpas added.
Sevier County was the third highest tourism economy with $1.5 M in money spent in tourism.
On Friday, Governor Bill Haslam will deliver his report and goals for the tourism industry for the coming year. The conference will conclude on Friday afternoon.