KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Like so many cities across Tennessee, Knoxville has also felt the impact of the pandemic.

At the start of the year, 2020 looked promising for the city.

“We closed 2019 extremely strong with producing over another billion in tourism expenditures just in Knoxville, Knox County alone,” said Kim Bumpas, President of Visit Knoxville.

Events Canceled

About three months later, Bumpas says the road they were on got off track – derailed by COVID-19.

“Our most devastating was mid-March through April,” she said.

That’s when Bumpas says events planned, at first, started to postpone and then cancel for the year.
The events impacted are ones we know and love.

“All of the local festivals including the parades were a big deal,” said Bumpas. “USA Cycling is a huge one. That one a lot of people missed because it was so visual and so integrated into our community.”

Tourism Figures

So just how big is the impact of missing out on events like these? Bumpas says they’re still figuring it out.

“I think it will take many, many more months before you know the true effects because tourism numbers run a few months in the rears,” she said.

But hotel occupancy figures from Visit Knoxville tracked via their partnership with Smith Travel Research help paint a picture.

In April, in downtown Knoxville, hotel occupancy dipped to just over 4%.

By the middle of August, the numbers showed signs of rebounding. On Saturday, August 15, occupancy soared to 98.5 percent downtown, which is a more than a 2% increase from this time a year ago.

Moving Forward

While the pandemic seemed to dim some of the shine of this year, the one ahead seems brighter, and Bumpas seems optimistic.

“We had about 98 events that were going to happen in 2020 that we successfully rescheduled for future years, so it’s very exciting to think about what the future looks like,” she said. “As far as promoters, meeting planners, event promoters, they are all going into ’21 like we’re going to be able to do our business.”

She’s looking toward 2021 as a more promising year.

Holiday Events

Before the year wraps up, many may be wondering what will happen with Knoxville’s holiday events for Christmas and New Years Eve.

A city spokesperson told us they’re still exploring what their holiday events will look like this year, and they’re hoping to have an announcement in the next few weeks.

Latest Tourism: 2020 & Moving Forward stories