NORTHEAST TENNESSEE (WJHL) — The Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association’s economic impact numbers from last year show just how popular a destination the region is for travelers. According to an overview of 2022’s revenue from tourism, nearly $1 billion was brought in across the region’s eight counties.

Photo: Northeast Tenn. Tourism Association

Executive Director Alicia Phelps said the nonprofit tourism agency (NETTA) is the second-largest economic driver in the state, and those dollars generated stay local, benefitting the broader community.

“All of that money is spent locally, so it stays here in the community,” she said. “It goes back to the community to enhance the quality of life and different projects that our cities and counties are doing. And so it’s really exciting to see our industry grow and to become, you know, in the top ten visited areas in the state.”

Phelps told News Channel 11 that some counties saw more than a 10% boost in revenue from tourism.

“You’re looking at well over 10% increases in some of our rural communities like Carter and Johnson, across the board, from employment to visitor spending and investment in tourism programs,” she said.

Phelps said the association takes into account the pandemic years when the world saw a much different amount of travel and tourism.

“It’s really important to take a look and see, you know, when is that curve going to start to flatten out? When are we 100% back from COVID? When is the pandemic and travel and things like that starting to look different?”

She said travel and the revenue that comes with it can look different based on what exactly people are coming here for.

“Because group travel looks different,” she said. “Business, leisure, they all look different. But it would be safe to say in the next probably three to four years, our area would 100% be in recovery, well above where we’ve been previously. And definitely approaching that $1 billion mark for annual spending each year.”

Phelps said NETTA plans to use these numbers as motivation and fuel to continue setting milestones in the region.