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Tennessee tourism spending set new record in 2021 even as the pandemic worsened

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(Mike Osborne) — The Tennessee tourism industry managed to set a new economic impact record last year, even as the pandemic continued to exact a heavy toll on the state's residents.

State officials say Tennessee attracted $24 billion tourist dollars in 2021.

Davidson County led the way, pulling in nearly $8 billion in tourism spending, a 64 percent increase over the year before.

Tourism generated just under $2 billion in tax revenue for the state.

In a press statement, Gov. Bill Lee attributed the growth in tourist spending to his early emphasis on reopening the state even as COVID-19 related deaths continued to rise, saying in part that “Our decision to prioritize strong recovery has yielded record levels of tourism growth."

A total of 13, 856 Tennesseans died of virus-related complications in 2021, more than twice the number of fatalities recorded in 2020.

Mike Osborne is the News Director for WMOT and can be heard on-air daily.