BY LAURA MILITANA
The latest numbers show that the promotion of tourism is paying off in Putnam County.
According to recent data released by the U.S. Travel Association, tourism expenditures increased by nearly $ 1 million in 2016 in Putnam County alone.
“We view these results as success in our increased marketing strategies which are focused on target drive and fly markets,” Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development with the Visitors Bureau, said.
The bureau recently launched new branding initiatives, a new website and increased social media and travel writer press tours efforts. A new visitor guide is also currently in production.
“We feel our continued efforts to serve as the destination marketing organization for Cookeville and Putnam County are paying off and will continue to develop, providing visibility of our community not only to potential guests, but potential industry and retail partners, while also providing a large tax relief to local residents,” he said.
Putnam County Executive Randy Porter credits this success to teamwork.
“I am very excited with Putnam County and Tennessee’s tourism numbers,” he said. “This is just another sign that our economy in Putnam County is hitting on all cylinders right now. Not only are we an attraction for new businesses, jobs and new construction, but visitors coming to our county for our natural resources and community events. The key behind our success is having a great team that markets Putnam County on a daily basis. Kudos to our chamber and visitors bureau along with our city and county leaders for a great job.”
Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton said that the tourism’s economic impact has a role in low property taxes.
“Our emphasis on marketing and promoting Cookeville, as well as our many regional events, is a business trait that has helped Cookeville grow,” he said. “Sales tax generated from tourism helps keep our property taxes at one of the lowest city rates in Tennessee.”
For the 11th consecutive year, tourism for the state topped $ 1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue, reaching $ 1.7 billion. That marks a 6.7 percent increase over 2015, higher than the national growth of travel related state sales tax revenues, and generated 176,500 jobs for Tennesseans, a 3.3 percent growth year over year.
Five counties exceeded the $ 1 billion in travel expenditures — Davidson ($ 5.996 billion), Shelby ($ 3.335 billion), Sevier ($ 2.217 billion), Hamilton ($ 1.060 billion) and Knox ($ 1.056 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.
Another record is that 110 million people visited the state in 2016, up 4.4 percent from 2016.
Tennessee also placed among the top 10 travel destinations in the U.S. for the third consecutive year and is considered a top retirement destination.