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Tourism ‘healthy, growing’ in area

Tourism poured more than $197 million into Washington County in 2008, according to a report by Dr. Steven Morse, director and economist at the tourism institute at the University of Tennessee.
That ranks the county 10th highest out of the 95 counties in Tennessee for that year. The Northeast Tennessee region also had the highest percent growth in tourism spending statewide, at 6.3 percent in 2008.
“There are a lot of counties in Tennessee that I visit that wish they had this chart,” Morse said. “It’s healthy and growing. You’re getting a new group of tourists every year.”
Washington County has 12.7 percent of its total employment in the tourism and hospitality field.
Tourism generated $11.47 million in state taxes and $4.57 million in local county taxes, according to the report. The money generated saves Washington County residents more than $300 per year in taxes.
“Tourism doesn’t get its fair due as a viable economic engine,” Morse said. “Why aren’t you telling people in the community how much tourism means to them? If it were not for state and local taxes generated by tourism, each of the 53,524 Washington County households would pay $301 more in taxes. “
Festivals and niche tourism in Jonesborough helps boost restaurant spending in the county, one telltale sign of tourism, Morse said.
Restaurant and food sales are highest in May, at $18.6 million, but also trend upward in March, August, and October. Morse highighted the National Storyelling Festival in Jonesborough as a reason for the October bump, but also credited the other “niche” festivals in the Town as a draw for tourists.