Gov. Lee today addressed tourism professionals during the 2019 Governor’s Conference on Hospitality & Tourism at the Music City Center, noting the state’s 2nd largest industry and thanking them for their hard work. He shared his priorities over the next four years and shined a light on how tourism can help achieve successful community-focused programs.
Additionally, Gov. Lee presented Colin Reed, Chairman & CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties, with a proclamation in honor of his service as Chairman of the Tennessee Tourism Committee since its inception in 2011.
Katrina Barclay, winner of the Tennessee Songwriters Week Open Mic Night event in Chattanooga opened Commissioner Ezell’s state-of-the-industry address. Commissioner Ezell praised Tennessee tourism’s record-breaking year of growth as well as early wins like an increase in TDTD tourism budget and the hyper-focus on rural tourism development. Tennessee saw 119 million domestic visitors in 2018, up 5.1 percent from 113 million the previous year and hit a record-high $22 billion in domestic and international travel spending. Travelers in Tennessee spend an estimated $60 million per day. Travel in Tennessee generated 189,757 jobs and $1.81 billion in state and local tax revenue. That is an increase of over $50 million in new state and local tax dollars in 2018, compared to 2017.
Ezell noted the economic impact Tennessee will see thanks to Ken Burns’ “Country Music” documentary, premiering Sept. 15 on PBS; the first-of-its-kind laugh tracker showcased in TDTD’s Kid Reviewed campaign; and the continued work in showcasing Tennessee as “The Soundtrack of America” each February during Tennessee Songwriters Week.
Other highlights of the conference included keynote speakers Larry Stuart who spoke on delivering world-class customer service and Susan Sweeny who touched on tourism marketing in the automated, digitally-connected world. Educational seminars included tourism marketing co-op programs, accessible travel, intellectual properties and usage rights, how to create events for 2020 Tennessee Songwriters Week and more. The Stars of the Industry Gala Thursday night honored front-line industry employees and businesses.
The I-24 Montgomery Co. (Clarksville) earned the Welcome Center of the Year Award. The I-24 Montgomery Co. (Clarksville) received a 4.989 average rating and hosted more than 1.1 million visitors in 2018. Visitors praised the 24-hour service of the center, the cleanliness and knowledgeable staff. One visitor even said the I-24 Montgomery Co. (Clarksville) was the “cleanest rest area in the country. I have seen 90% of them.” In 2018, more than 15 million travelers utilized the state’s 16 welcome centers.
The 2019 Governor’s Conference on Hospitality & Tourism is produced by the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association in partnership with TDTD, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation and The Greater Nashville Hospitality Association.