NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Rising gas prices and inflation are affecting travel plans, but what does that mean for Tennessee’s economy?

Tennessee’s tourism leaders predict the rising costs won’t prevent people from visiting the Volunteer State this summer.

Brian Wagner, the Assistant Commissioner of Marketing with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, says Tennessee tourism is on track for another big year following 2021’s high numbers.

“The pent up demand for travel is real,” Wagner says. “We expect a lot of visitors this summer across the state.”

In 2021 Wagner says tourism tax collections were up 9.7% despite tight COVID-19 restrictions. This is likely attributable to the state’s diverse outdoor attractions including the Great Smoky Mountains, 56 state parks, and Dollywood.

“Tennessee is geographically blessed. It’s about a day’s drive from 75% of the population in the United States. So, what we’re seeing is people are still getting in the car and going, but fortunately Tennessee might be a shorter trip than say going to a national park out west,” Wagner says.

With conventions, international travel, and business travel also coming back into play as COVID-19 restrictions decline, Wagner says the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development predicts of record number of visitors throughout the summer and entirety of 2022.

“We think tourism in Tennessee will be resilient even with high gas prices and inflation,” Wagner adds. “You name it, you can find it in Tennessee.”

Tourism in Tennessee generates roughly 2 billion dollars a year in state and local tax revenue. Wagner says this makes visitor’s dollars valuable and saves Tennessee residents money on property and income taxes.

Half of every dollar spent pays for services like public education, roads, and health care.

“I like to jut remind people that our tax structure in Tennessee makes tourists very valuable and they enjoy a savings,” says Wagner. “I know sometimes traffic gets congested downtown (Nashville), but we should go up and thank those visitors for coming and leaving their dollars behind to help pay for education and so much more.”