East TN seeing quicker recovery in tourism spending than other regions of state

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — If you were to take a drive down Gatlinburg’s strip, you might think things are back to business. New data from the state shows it’s been back for a while.

Tax collection data shows travel and tourism-related spending is recovering more quickly in East Tennessee than other regions of the state. Sevier County leads other tourism destination counties in lodging spending recovery. In July, Sevier County was down 3%, compared to 2019. Davidson County, where Nashville is located, was down 75%.

Sevier County also had the second highest recovery in amusement services.

Knox County saw highest recovery for eating and drinking places. Tax collections in the same area were down 11%, statewide, from 2019. Sevier County was down 8%.

The occupancy rate in the greater Sevierville area in August was 60%, compared to 48% statewide.

Marci Claude, public relations manager for the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, credited the notoriety of the region and its location.

“It has been an unexpected blessing for sure, not know what was going to happen back in the spring. Clearly, people are still willing to move around and travel. We are the fortunate recipients,” she said.

Marcus Watson, SkyLift Park’s marketing director credited their geography.

“I believe a big reason for it is just being outdoors, being in open spaces and being in a location where it’s safe, it’s comfortable, and we can definitely continue on with these expansion plans and continue to grow as an attraction and a community,” Watson said.

Gatlinburg SkyTrail to open soon

On Friday, Watson showcased their attraction’s newest addition, the SkyTrail, set to open in a week or two.

It’s their first major investment since completing the SkyBridge, North America’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge, which opened in May 2019.

The tourism outlook for Gatlinburg is so positive, they’re already working on plans for phase two of the trail.

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