BRISTOL, Tenn./Va. (WJHL) – Race week in Bristol is synonymous with a boost in local spending as race fans from across the country set up their campsites around Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS).
This year, the added element of Bristol’s new casino means the region’s tourism industry is expected to hit new heights.
In Tennessee alone, a record of more than $24 billion was spent in direct travel spending in 2021.
Events happening on both sides of the state line in Bristol during race week help the local economy continue to cash in on the revenue boost.
“You can do something seven days a week here. That’s something that positions us strongly to be a unique travel destination that you can’t find anywhere else,” said Jon Luttrell, community relation director for Bristol, Tennessee.
The twin cities are fresh off the heels of around 30,000 people attending the annual Rhythm and Roots Reunion festival along State Street downtown. Tens of thousands more will be in town again for the night race at BMS.
“We are already seeing a strong resurgence in the travel industry post-pandemic,” Luttrell said. “Combine that with these attractions and major events and the fact gas prices are starting to drop a little bit from what they were earlier this summer, they are able to travel a bit more, comfortably spend a bit more than they have in the past.”
Luttrell calls the casino being open this race weekend a “game-changer” as two mega-tourism drivers in the region will pour an expected millions of dollars of revenue into the local economy.
“Whether they are staying at a hotel in Tennessee or Virginia or visiting the speedway or the casino, they are just here to have a positive experience and want to experience the best that our region has to offer,” said Luttrell.
Casino leaders say they are proud to have an ongoing partnership with BMS, and they are excited to host customers for their first race weekend.
“We expect additional volume over the weekend,” said Mark DeLeo, Vice President of Marketing for the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Bristol. “The casino will be fully staffed to welcome race fans to play slots and table games and to place bets at our Sportsbook. Additionally, race fans can visit our promotional tent all weekend at BMS for special offers to visit Bristol Casino.”
The casino will also be hosting VIP guests from across the country in its Hard Rock suite at BMS for the night race.
“Both organizations help draw visitors to the Tri-Cities from neighboring states throughout the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions,” said DeLeo.
The Meredith family of New Jersey has traveled to Tennessee for the night race eight times.
“Every year in the same spot,” said Glenn Meredith in his camping spot on the BMS campgrounds.
Glenn and his wife Karin got into Bristol on Friday to begin camping. They say every year they make trips downtown to support local businesses.
“We’re just walking around and looking at what’s new to see if there’s a new shop, window shopping,” said Karin.
“We pick a restaurant for a meal, it’s never the same one, just trying different ones,” said Glenn.
Tourism dollars from so many like the Meredith family have a unique impact; especially on Sullivan County. Luttrell said the county saw 303 million in tourism dollars spent last year.
“It meant that Sullivan County households paid $370 less in state and local taxes so that’s really important,” said Luttrell. “This first quarter of 2022, our traditional tourism season, looks like it is going to be one of the biggest ones we have ever experienced. Not just for Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia, but for the region as a whole.”