It is remarkable that the tourism industry in Tennessee has not only kept its head above water but has actually thrived despite the current national economic crisis.
As you might have read, tourists spent roughly 6.3 percent more money in Tennessee in 2010 than they spent in our state in 2009. All told, 2010 spending by tourists in Tennessee came to more than $14 billion!
That $14 billion generates countless jobs for our people. In fact, tourism is the second-biggest industry in Tennessee. Spending by tourists also produces revenue to support the functions of state and local government.
It is equally encouraging that the increase in tourism spending was well distributed around the state. According to the Tennessee Department of Tourism and Development, every one of the state's 95 counties saw growth in tourists' spending from 2009 to 2010.
Of course, we in Tennessee are scarcely surprised to learn that more people are coming to our beautiful state to see its varied attractions. Those attractions range from the scenic Smoky Mountains to Chattanooga's wonderfully developed riverfront and outdoors activities to Graceland at Memphis -- and hundreds if not thousands of picturesque and historic spots in between.
The fact that Tennessee has continued to attract so many tourist dollars during current economic difficulties speaks volumes both for our plentiful attractions themselves and for the many efforts to market those attractions beyond the state's borders.
It is gratifying that so many Americans are figuring out what Tennesseans have known all along: that the Volunteer State is a special place.