Barb Wise walks on the museum terrace at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park which overlooks Chattanooga.
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A horse carriage, drive by Keely Gilliland and Chipper, rides past the Chattanooga Choo Choo on the way to the Tennessee Aquarium. The Choo Choo and Aquarium are among the attractions that helped draw more than $1 billion of tourism spending in Hamilton County last year for the first time.

Tourists boosted their spending last year in Hamilton County nearly 3.4 percent to top $1 billion for the first time, according to a study released today by the U.S. Travel Associaton.

Visitors to the Scenic City spent nearly $1.02 billion in 2015, up $33 million from the previous year. Such spending grew slightly faster in Chattanooga than in Knoxville and helped Hamiton County surpass Knox County for tourism expenditures for the first time.

Tourism supported an estimated 7,450 jobs in Hamilton County last year and generated $82.7 million in state and local taxes, according to an analysis prepared by D.K. Shifflet & Associates.

Such gains were similar last year across Tennessee, which boosted the overall size of the state's tourism economy to more than $17.8 billion. Statewide, 151,780 workers were employed in tourism-related industries in Tennessee.

The Volunteer State ranked in the top 10 destinations in the United States for total travel with more than 105 million visits, the study by D.K. Shifflet & Associates found.

For the 10th consecutive year, tourism topped $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue, reaching $1.6 billion, up 7 percent over 2014.

"More travelers from around the world are visiting Tennessee each year, and the $1.6 billion in sales tax revenue and growth in jobs is good news for every Tennessean," Gov. Bill Haslam said today during an event at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. "People come to Tennessee for a variety of reasons including the music, but it's the authenticity and Southern hospitality that our communities and partners deliver every day that keeps people coming back. The tourism industry's continued economic impact growth is a result of visitor satisfaction."

 Sevier County, where state officials gathered to celebrate the importance and growth on Tennessee tourism, generated nearly twice as much spending as did Hamilton County even though its population is only about one fourth as big.

The top five counties in Tennessee for tourism spending in 2015 were Davidson ($5.686 billion), Shelby ($3.196 billion), Sevier ($2.031 billion), Hamilton ($1.016 billion), and Knox ($1.014 billion. All 95 counties in Tennessee had more than $1 million in direct travel expenditures.