Nashville’s tourism industry once again leads the entire state of Tennessee with $6.5 billion in visitor spending in 2017, according to the newly released 2017 report on the Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee Counties. Nashville’s $6.5 billion represents nearly one-third of domestic visitor spending across Tennessee and is an 8.5 percent increase over 2016’s $6 billion visitor spending level.
Among the top five counties, Davidson County (Nashville) was followed by Shelby (Memphis) at $3.5 billion; Sevier (Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge) at $2.3 billion; Hamilton (Chattanooga) at $1.1 billion; and Knox (Knoxville) at $1.1 billion.
Nashville’s tourism boom is on a seven-year streak with the number of hotel rooms sold seeing record growth in 89 out of the last 92 months. For six consecutive years, Nashville has been named by several travel outlets as a top global destination. In 2017, Cvent ranked Nashville seventh among the Top 50 meeting destinations in the United States. Nine new hotel properties opened last year, and seven properties with 1,380 rooms have opened so far this year.
Hospitality is Nashville’s second-largest industry, behind healthcare. The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp has worked to continue the tourism momentum by hosting large events during July 4 and New Year’s Eve, which typically sell out hotel rooms across the city, bring in hundreds of thousands of attendees and generate significant visitor spending. Additionally, the NCVC has worked with other city leaders to attract major events like the NFL Draft and Gold Cup soccer in 2019, and the city remains a host candidate city for World Cup games in 2026.
The visitor spending number is significant in measuring the success of the tourism industry because it is the most direct way to gauge visitor impact on the city. In addition to direct visitor spending, employment, payroll and state/local tax receipts are important measurements, and those growth rates in Davidson County were higher than the statewide averages.