Sara Beth Urban, Tennessee Department of Tourism Middle Tennessee division manager, discussed the department’s continuous focus on attracting visitors to the state and highlighting its vast interests.
Urban said the state’s attractions are divided into several categories, including music, nature, food, history and heritage and more.
“I’m huge a proponent of history and heritage. I would argue that, along with music, history and heritage is weaved through every story we tell. There is so much here in our state that we can talk about,” Urban said.
Urban said the state also works to preserve its history through groups and events such as the Fisk Jubilee Singers and the NAIA Pow Wow held annually at Long Hunter State Park.
Urban also discussed the state’s recent rise in the food world, particularly due to the recent popularity of Nashville hot chicken.
“Tennessee has become a major foodie destination in the past few years, Nashville in particular. I believe the people of Memphis would argue pretty hardcore that they are the barbecue kings,” she said.
Urban detailed the state’s efforts to attract new visitors, as well as returning visitors, and detailed new initiatives on the horizon. She discussed the upcoming Tennessee Music Pathway.
“It’s a new trail that’s coming out. It’s going to cross the entire state, and it’s going to catalog those seven genres of music that were born in the state,” Urban said. “The cool thing about that is we’re hoping the app will have a feature that will bring up locations as you come into contact with a live music venue, music pathway or heritage site.”
Tennessee tourism’s direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached an all-time record high of $19.3 billion in 2016, up 4.7 percent from the previous year, as reported by the U.S. Travel Association.
For the 11th consecutive year, tourism topped $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue, reaching $1.7 billion. All 95 counties saw more than $1 million in direct travel expenditures in the economic impact of tourism and 19 counties saw more than $100 million, with Wilson County seeing about $150 million in direct travel expenditures.
“While we always like to say we have a lot of fun, we know that at the end of the day, the sales tax that’s coming back to our state is so important, because it really is improving our quality of life here,” she said. “So, there is a reason for all of those bachelorette parties in downtown Nashville.”