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A wake up call? UC has less than stellar tourism spending report

Liz Engel Clark
Thursday, Oct 9, 2014


Tourism spending in 2013 was flat in the Upper Cumberland.

UPPER CUMBERLAND – Visitor spending was relatively flat in the Upper Cumberland in 2013, according to numbers released today by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

Tourism spending was up just 0.5 percent as visitors dished out $359.62 million at restaurants, hotels, retail stores, entertainment venues and on transportation in the Upper Cumberland in 2013. While it was an increase, the UC's percentage gain was the lowest among other regions in the state. As a comparison, the Mid-Cumberland region, which includes Davidson, Williamson, Wilson and Rutherford counties, among others, saw a 7.7 percent jump. The East Tennessee region, which includes several counties like Sevier, Knox and Blout, was up 3.1 percent. Overall, tourism spending in Tennessee increased by 3.34 percent year-over-year.

The UC's gain was also much less than what the region has experienced in recent history. In 2012, the Upper Cumberland brought in $357.79, a gain of 5.4 percent from 2011. In 2011, the gain was 6.6 percent.

"I was hopeful for better numbers," said Ruth Dyal, director of the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association, which works to promote the region. While some counties performed well, she said, namely Overton and Putnam, the report as a whole should serve as a "wake up call."

The region's gain was largely on Putnam's hands – the county saw a 3.21 percent change in 2013 over 2012 with $3.41 million in additional expenditures – but some smaller counties, including Cannon (0.47), Fentress (3.12), Macon (2.9), Overton (3.98), Smith (4.04), Van Buren (0.32), Warren (0.50) and White (1.94) also saw gains.

Cumberland County saw a -2.4 percentage drop in spending. Decreases were also seen in Clay, DeKalb and Pickett. Jackson was virtually unchanged.

The region also saw a decrease in payroll and employment numbers, respectively. As a whole, visitor spending accounted for 2,560 jobs with a payroll of $61.07 million and local tax receipts amounting to $18.48 million.

"We have to look at tourism as an economic development activity," Dyal said. "We have to let people know we're here, and it's more than word-of-mouth these days. That's no longer enough. You have to be active; we need to do more advertising. The chambers are working very hard. People don't want to just go to the lake; they want to get off the lake and do something.

"Rather than being negative, we need to take the numbers, look at them and create a strategy to come out of this dip," she added. "We need to talk about how can we cooperate and make our region a destination. But it will take everybody."

The 2013 study was released Thursday by the U.S. Travel Association for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

 

Counties

Expenditures 2013 (in millions)

Expenditures 2012 (in millions)

Payroll  2013 (in millions)

Payroll 2012 (in millions)

Employment 2013

Employment 2012

Cannon

$3.89

$3.87

$0.36

$0.37

10

10

Clay

$6.72

$6.86

$1.37

$1.47

50

50

Cumberland

$102.35

$104.83

$20.98

$22.06

900

940

DeKalb

$38.64

$39.34

$7.32

$7.64

260

270

Fentress

$12.03

$11.67

$1.84

$1.81

80

80

Jackson

$2.19

$2.19

$0.29

$0.30

10

10

Macon

$7.12

$6.92

$1.04

$1.03

50

50

Overton

$7.19

$6.91

$0.98

$0.95

40

40

Pickett

$7.34

$7.41

$1.47

$1.54

50

50

Putnam

$109.67

$106.26

$16.82

$16.73

850

840

Smith

$11.09

$10.66

$1.36

$1.35

50

50

Van Buren

$8.63

$8.61

$1.82

$1.87

60

70

Warren

$22.50

$22.39

$3.34

$3.45

140

150

White

$20.25

$19.87

$2.08

$2.12

80

80

UCDD

$359.62

357.79

$61.07

$62.71

2,650

2,680

TN

$16,182.96

$15,660.48

$3,200.42

$3,204.24

143.49

141.25



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Comments containing obvious malicious or obscene content will be deleted.
Danny Newton
Friday, Oct 10, 2014 at 1:15 AM
According to two year old traffic counts, the number of vehicle-miles traveled in Tennessee has fallen back to 2005 levels. On an intuitive level, it feels like there is a recovery in vehicle miles by the way congestion is increasing but normal tourism levels are probably not going to happen until the economy recovers along with an increase in real GDP. Lower gas prices should help but I don't think most people feel comfortable betting that this lull is going to be stable over the long run.
     
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