guest view: Gov. Bill Haslam

As Tennesseans make vacation plans for the summer, it’s a good time to remember the economic impact the tourism industry has on Tennessee.

This month, our Department of Tourist Development an-nounced the results of a return-on-investment study of the “Soundtrack of America, Made in Tennessee” campaign launched 18 months ago.

A third party, Strategic Marketing and Research Insights, found that Tennessee enjoys an 18-to-1 return on investment (ROI) from the campaign, which highlights the sounds synonymous with the Smoky Mountains, Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and more. That’s 18 tax dollars taken in for every dollar spent on marketing in the campaign. The national benchmark is 9-to-1 tax dollars for every dollar spent.

This study is great news not only for our tourism industry but for all Tennesseans. An 18-to-1 ROI is impressive no matter what kind of business you are in. When you consider the national average is only half of that, it makes a big statement about our brand and marketing in Tennessee.

Obviously, a lot builds on the music associated with the various parts of our state, but it also highlights the harmony those sounds have with other attractions in Tennessee. Whether it’s the blues and barbecue of Memphis, the sounds of the city and the great outdoors of Knoxville, the diversity of Nashville’s music, arts and culinary scene, the attractions of Chattanooga or the racing engines at Bristol Motor Speedway, the marketing campaign has been a clear winner for the state.

We are blessed in Tennessee to have an abundance of incredible attractions – our music, our history, our beautiful landscapes and family destinations. We are grateful to our tourism and hospitality industry for their hard work to attract so many people and so much investment from around the world to Tennessee.

The study shows Tennessee visitors spent on average $229 for every dollar invested in the campaign. The national benchmark is $152. Further, Tennessee spent one-third less than the average state destination marketing organization, with only 22 cents spent per traveling household against a national benchmark of 67 cents spent per household.

The ROI findings follow a strong showing of the economic impact of tourism in our state in general that we announced last summer. We saw record breaking numbers for Tennessee’s tourism in direct domestic and international travel expenditures. In 2014, the most recent year studied, tourism reached $17.7 billion, which was up 6.3 percent from the previous year and an all-time high for the state.

Tourism-generated jobs for Tennesseans reached 152,900 in that data, and state and local sales tax revenue for the industry topped $1.5 billion, which was up 7 percent over 2013. The figures came from the Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee as reported by the U.S. Travel Association.

And while the “Soundtrack of America” campaign is attracting visitors to our state, it’s important that the first thing many of those visitors see makes a good impression. Tourist Development Commissioner Kevin Triplett this month announced improvements to Tennessee’s 14 Welcome Centers, including a new music feature highlighting a more-than-140-song playlist of Tennessee music. That means tourists will literally be greeted with “The Soundtrack of America, Made in Tennessee.”

We have a lot to be proud of in our state. Telling the world about it and seeing a big return on that message is good news for all of us. As Tennesseans get out and about in the coming weeks and months, we hope they will keep that soundtrack of their state in mind. It is paying off for Tennessee.

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