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Tennessee Tourism Outperformed the Nation in 2020 with $16.8 Billion in Visitor Spending Despite COVID-19

August 6, 2021

Tennessee Tourism Outperformed the Nation in 2020 with $16.8 Billion in Visitor Spending Despite COVID-19

Tourism Initiatives Focus on Continued Economic Recovery

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Aug. 6, 2021 - Tennessee tourism generated $16.8 billion in domestic and international travel spending in 2020, a 31.6 percent decline from the previous year according to newly-released economic impact data from U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics. Travel in Tennessee generated nearly 150,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue. Despite the impact of COVID-19, efforts to promote outdoor travel opportunities helped Tennessee outperform the national average decline of 42 percent.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell highlighted efforts to continue the industry’s strong recovery.

“Tourism is a vital part of our state’s strong economic recovery,” said Gov. Lee. “By working together to support small businesses and drive job growth, we will ensure Tennessee continues to be one of the top travel destinations in the world.” 

“Tennessee’s scenic beauty, strong outdoor assets and compelling rural and road trip destinations gave it an edge against other states,” said Mark Ezell, Commissioner of the Department of Tourist Development. “We’ve seen parts of our state not only survive, but also thrive. Our mission as a department is to inspire travel to all 95 counties, and we are committed to restoring economic prosperity for our industry.”


Additional Key Highlights from the 2020 Report:

  • In the first two months of 2020, Tennessee’s leisure and hospitality industry was on a record track. COVID-19 was the largest crisis to hit the leisure and hospitality industry in history.
  • In 2020, tourism shifted away from business and solo travel to longer, leisure-oriented family trips.
  • Outdoor attractions experienced historic growth in 2020. For example, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw a record 12 million visitors.
  • 15 counties in Tennessee experienced an increase in travel spending. Grainger, Van Buren, Cheatham, Hickman, Campbell and Union Counties saw an increase of more than 5 percent.
  • Tourism was Tennessee’s fourth largest employer in 2020.
  • The state of Tennessee saw 75 million domestic person stays.
  • Revenue generated by tourism saved each Tennessee household $550 in state and local taxes last year.
  • The decline in state sales & use tax revenue represented a $303 million loss to the state budget between March and December 2020.


The 2020 Economic Impact on Travel Report includes newly expanded county snapshots with additional data that will be available August 10. A new dashboard with the county data and comprehensive models of the economic impact of spending by industry will be debuted at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Hospitality Sept. 15-17 in Murfreesboro. 

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development works with the Tennessee Tourism Committee, local convention and visitors’ bureaus, chambers of commerce, city and county leaders, tourism attractions and the hospitality industries in all 95 counties to inspire travel to the state.


Media Contacts:

Jill Kilgore

Amanda Murphy


Mary Katelyn Price



Tennessee is the home of the blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly, and rock ‘n’ roll— delivering an unparalleled experience of beauty, history, and family adventure, infused with music, that creates a vacation that is the “Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.”   Explore more at and join other Tennessee travelers by following “TNVacation” on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, and “Tennessee” on Snapchat.