Downtown Nashville, Tennessee skyline

WHY IT RATES: The hospitality industry remains an enormous economic engine for the entire state of Tennessee and sustains 71,140 jobs while attracting 15.8 million visitors per year.

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New tourism numbers that show $7 billion in visitor spending generated in Nashville last year is the highest in the state and underscores the importance of Music City’s hospitality industry to the local and state economy. Additionally, there were 71,140 hospitality industry jobs in Nashville in 2018, and 15.8 million visitors traveled to the Greater Nashville area in Fiscal Year 2019. Visitation was a 7 percent increase over FY18’s 14.8 million.

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. The new data, released this morning by Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, shows that Nashville’s tourism growth outpaces the state and national averages. Most significantly, the amount of visitor spending in Nashville continues to represent one-third of all visitor spending in Tennessee.

“These numbers are the latest indication of what we all know–that Nashville has become a major tourist destination and that visitor spending is helping our city by creating jobs and giving us revenue to build a better community,” Mayor David Briley said. “This money is used throughout the county–from Bellevue to Antioch and Madison to White’s Creek – to invest in our streets, parks, schools, libraries and more. I want to thank the many people who work so hard to make our tourism industry thrive.”

Bob Fisher, president of Belmont University and chair of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp board of directors, said, “The Nashville Convention and Visitor Corp’s partnership with the city is critical because our success is directly tied to making Music City a better place to call home. The continued growth of Nashville’s tourism industry drives the economy by creating new jobs and tax revenue to support citywide needs, and it leads to new amenities and attractions that improve the quality of life in every neighborhood, and for every family, in Davidson County.”

Regarding visitor spending, among the Top Five counties, the $7 billion in Davidson County (Nashville) was followed by Shelby (Memphis) at $3.65 billion; Sevier (Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge) at $2.5 billion; Knox (Knoxville) at $1.2 billion; and Hamilton (Chattanooga) at $1.2 billion.

Another way to look at the $7 billion visitor spending figure: Nashville visitors spent over $13,000 per minute last year. For the eight-county Greater Nashville area, the visitor spending figure in 2018 was $8.3 billion, which represents nearly 40 percent of the state’s visitor spending. In addition to Davidson County, this area includes Williamson, Rutherford, Wilson, Sumner, Dickson, Robertson and Cheatham.

Nashville’s $7 billion visitor spending figure was a 7 percent increase over 2017’s $6.5 billion. That half a billion dollars in growth was the largest amount any county saw in year-over-year growth.

The state reported $522.4 million in state and local taxes generated by the hospitality industry in Nashville, a 5.5 percent increase over 2017’s $495 million. Of that, Davidson County tax receipts for 2018 was $175.69 million, which was a 5.43 percent increase over 2017’s $166.64 million. Davidson County worker payroll was $1.79 billion, up 8.3 percent over 2017’s $1.65 billion. Payroll grew at twice the rate of employment, indicating that wages went up for hospitality workers.

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 and national averages.

Nashville’s tourism boom is on an eight-year streak with the number of hotel rooms sold seeing record growth 100 out of the last 103 months. In the past five years, Nashville demand (hotel rooms sold) has increased faster than any other top 30 city in the United States. Nashville ranked No. 6 on the 2019 list of cities considered the most outstanding meeting destinations in the United States as determined by Cvent, a global meetings management company.

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 worked with city leaders to host the largest ever NFL Draft earlier this year, and the city remains a host candidate city for World Cup soccer games in 2026.

SOURCE: Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp press release.