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Gov. Bill Haslam (center) poses for a photo Friday at the 2016 Tennessee Governor's Conference on Hospitality and Tourism that drew some 400 tourism industry professionals to the Chattanooga Convention Center.

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To view the full 2015 Tourism Economic Impact Report, including county-by-county numbers, visit www.tnvacation.com/industry/research.

 

Every tax dollar the state of Tennessee spends to promote tourism generates $18 in tax revenue and $229 in tourist spending.

That's the message Gov. Bill Haslam had Friday at the 2016 Tennessee Governor's Conference on Hospitality and Tourism that drew some 400 tourism industry professionals to the Chattanooga Convention Center.

"Thank you. Great job. And don't quit, because we need you," Haslam told those gathered for the conference's luncheon. "I hope you have a sense of the big picture you're a part of. You've made our job easier."

The state has a budget surplus, Haslam said, and "our unemployment numbers are down more than any other state," falling from 11 percent at the height of the recession in 2009 down to only 4.4 percent last month.

He credited that, in part, to the $18.4 billion total economic impact tourism had in Tennessee in 2015. Tourism generated $1.6 billion in state and local sales tax revenue in 2015, the governor said, which marks the 10th consecutive year in which tourism generate more than $1 billion in state and local taxes.

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development has a marketing budget of $13.9 million this current fiscal year, up from $12.9 million the previous fiscal year, said Cindy Dupree, the department's spokeswoman.

Tourist Development Commissioner Kevin Triplett gave a state of the industry address Friday morning and highlighted the state's campaign that launched about three years ago, "The Soundtrack of America: Made in Tennessee."

"These record-breaking numbers are a reflection of the successful collaboration between the state tourism department and our partners, from the local convention and visitors bureaus to attractions, hotels and restaurants," Triplett said.

All 95 counties in Tennessee had more than $1 million in direct travel expenditures; 19 counties saw more than $100 million; and five counties — Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Shelby and Sevier — had more than $1 billion in economic impact, state tourism officials say. Tennessee is ranked in the Top 10 destinations in the U.S. for total travel, the governor said.

At the conference's gala Thursday night, Bob Doak, president and chief executive officer of the Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), won the 2016 Tennessee Tourism Professional of the Year Award. Doak has spent more than 30 years working in the hospitality and tourism industry. He was named president and chief executive officer of the Chattanooga CVB in 2002.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu @timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or twitter.com/meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.

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