State tourism numbers soaring for many East TN counties

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MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) – Tourists save Tennesseans hundreds of dollars a year in state and local taxes, on average, according to new data released by the state.

A report, looking at 2018 tourism spending, shows many of our counties saw big growth in the amount of spending from visitors into their counties.

Hamblen County was among them, with more than a 6% increase.

Anne Ross, the Tourism Director for the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce, explained Friday the numbers are positive, but wanted to clarify they encompass people coming into the county on business as well as leisure.

“If you have great tourism attractions, that’s a quality of life issue and when a company is thinking about relocating or coming to your area, that’s one of the things they look at,” she said.

Basically, she believes tourism and commerce complement one another.

While four of the five tourists coming into Tennessee come for leisure, Ross said much of their increase is attributed to a thriving business community.

And there’s plenty of leisure to get into.

Fishing tournaments, hiking, bike trails, disc golf, and breathtaking views are just some examples of what the county has to offer.

When a fishing tournament trail makes its way to Cherokee Lake, she said, between 200-250 boats come in, with two anglers on every vessel, bringing 400 people per team trail.

While they have plenty to offer, they’ve also been trademarked as the disk golf capital of Tennessee for about a year.

Each year, the state championship is held in the county, bringing between 400-450 competitors. Ross explained many of those golfers come early to practice, buying more food, fuel, and hotel stays.

Other events including the Mountain Makins Festival and the upcoming first-ever craft beer festival are also draws to get people into their area.

Ross estimates, per household in the county, savings of $370 in state and local taxes as a result of the increase in tourism revenue.

She cares about the area she lives in, which is why she also cares about promoting it. With a budget of $88,000 in marketing this year, including advertising and sponsorship of events, she works to put the money where they’ll see the biggest return.

Ross is encouraged by the numbers because it says her strategies are working. Some of them include appealing to visitors already in the region, whether it be the Smokies, Knoxville, or the Tri-Cities.

Through billboards, social media, and google advertising, she hopes to pull families into the Morristown area, even if it’s just for one day.

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