NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee officials say the state saw a lower rate of decline in tourism spending than the country as a whole in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development says the state had $16.8 billion in domestic and international travel spending last year in a report from the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics. That’s a 31.6% decline from the previous year, compared with a 42% drop for the nation at large.
The numbers coincide with efforts from Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s administration to drum up tourism amid the pandemic. In July, Lee and country superstar Brad Paisley launched a nationwide campaign called Tennessee on Me in order to promote the state.
The campaign offers up to 10,000 free airline vouchers to airports in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville with the purchase of a two-night stay in those locations.
Governor Lee allocated $2.5 million in his budget to promote tourism through $250 digital gift cards from Delta, American, and Southwest Airlines for travel to Tennessee. Over 60 hotels are participating in the campaign.
The approach has also drawn critics who think the state isn’t doing enough to fight the pandemic.