This story was updated Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, at 11:15 p.m. with more information.
2018 travel-related figures for Hamilton County show:
Expenditures -- $1.16 billion, a 4.75% increase over 2017
Payroll: $219.9, a 5.43% boost over 2017
Employment: 8,970, a 1.5% bump from 2017
State tax receipts: $68.03, a 3.24% increase over 2017
Local tax receipts: $25.61 million, a 3.2% increase over 2017
NASHVILLE — Tennessee set records last year in the tourism, leisure and hospitality industry, generating an estimated $22 billion in spending and drawing 119 million domestic visitors, Gov. Bill Lee and Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell announced Tuesday.
Calling travel-related activity an "incredibly important" part of the state's economy, Lee said it generated nearly 190,000 jobs in 2018 and brought in an estimated $1.81 billion in state and local tax revenues.
That's a $50 million increase for the state with half the money going toward education. The $22 billion figure, based on U.S. Travel Association estimates, represents a 6% increase over last year. The 119 million domestic-visitor figure is a 5.1% boost.
In 2017, Tennessee generated $20.7 billion in direct visitor spending with a record 113.6 million visitors at the time. In 2016, Tennessee saw $19.3 billion in visitor spending total.
In Hamilton County, the U.S. Travel Association estimates that tourism expenditures last year rose by 4.75% to more than $1.16 billion and accounted for 8,970 jobs with an annual payroll of nearly $219.9 million.
Lee cited the state's "thriving cities" as well as its "beautiful rural landscapes and everything in between" along with "world-class food, music and adventure" as major draws.
The governor, who took office in January, touted his effort this year to boost tourism in rural areas of the state, creating a new Office of Rural Tourism and Outreach.
State officials estimate travelers in Tennessee spent $60 million a day in 2018.
Commissioner Ezell told industry officials attending the announcement at the Country Music Hall of Fame that Tennessee is "crushing it in tourism" and outpacing many states in terms of growth. For example, Tennessee ranked No. 3 for international travel growth in 2018, losing out to Pennsylvania and Georgia.
The tourism sector, Ezell said, is the state's second largest industry by employment, exceeded only by agriculture.
With another 25,000 hotel and motel rooms planned across the state, Tennessee is "truly poised for growth," the commissioner said.
Tennessee's long-term goal, Ezell said, is to "become the best non-beach state in America" when it comes to tourism, an acknowledgement that states with ocean or gulf access such as Georgia and Florida are difficult to beat.