Clarksville-Montgomery County visitor spending outpaced the state and nation during 2020, despite a global pandemic. Local tourism generated $252.14 million in domestic and international travel spending in 2020, a 28 percent decline from the previous year according to newly-released economic impact data from U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics. Tourism spending decreased 32 percent in Tennessee and 42 percent in the nation in 2020.
During the Governor’s Conference on Tourism last week Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell announced that Tennessee’s leisure and hospitality industry was on a record track the first two months of 2020. COVID-19 was the largest crisis to hit the leisure and hospitality industry in history.
“Tennessee proved our resiliency by outperforming the nation,” he said. “During April, May and June  our tax revenue is out-performing pre-COVID numbers. And from April 2020 through January 21, Tennessee is one of only seven states with a positive percentage change in consumer spending.”
The 2020 economic impact report used a new research model that provided international data at the county level, which had previously only been available at the state level, as well as more comprehensive lodging information using mobile data. The report also breaks down spending by industry sector for the first time. All county-level reporting was adjusted back to 2015 to incorporate the more thorough and detailed data.
Between 2015 and 2019, annual visitor spending in Montgomery County increased from $281 million to $352.5 million, a 25.4 percent increase, then decreased to $252 million in 2020. Average visitor spending in Montgomery County totaled just under $689,000 per day in 2020.
“We’ve experienced record-breaking growth in tourism during the previous five years,” said Visit Clarksville Board of Directors Chairman Matt Cunningham. “And we’ve not stopped marketing, so we’re well-positioned for a strong economic rebound. Like the state, we saw the beginnings of a big bounce-back in the early summer. Visitors and residents have made excellent use of our outdoor assets and recreational opportunities. We also have such a variety of restaurants here, and most all of them adapted well to meet safety protocols. These have given visitors and residents opportunities to experience our community safely and still support the local economy.”
Data from the Tourism Economics report showed that direct state and local taxes generated by tourist activity totaled $21 million. As a result of visitor spending, each household in Montgomery County pays $290 less in state and local taxes. Counting indirect spending throughs supporting industries, that amount totals $436 per household annually.
Other report highlights for Montgomery County:
- Direct labor income, or payroll, totaled $81.46 million, with 3,300 persons directly employed in tourism sectors.
- Food and Beverage spending totaled $90.5 million
- Lodging spending totaled $44.95 million
- Retail spending totaled $36.8 million
- Recreation spending totaled $20.56 million
- Transportation spending totaled $59.3 million
Visitor spending in Tennessee’s top nine counties in 2020:
- Davidson County, $4.48 billion, down 43.2 percent
- Shelby County, $2.57 billion, down 31.7 percent
- Sevier County, $2.38 billion, down 13.5 percent
- Knox County $1.16 billion, down 31.7 percent
- Hamilton County, $1.07 billion, down 30.2 percent
- Williamson County, $775 million, down 31.1 percent
- Rutherford County, $472 million, down 27.6 percent
- Blount County, $337 million, down 33.8 percent
- Montgomery County, $252 million, down 28.5 percent
During 2020, Visit Clarksville hosted sports competitions in soccer, track & field, baseball and softball that generated $9.3 million in visitor spending. In 2021, outdoor events kicked off again in May with baseball, track & field and softball. In July, Visit Clarksville hosted its first indoor sports competition with the AAU Boys National Basketball Championship, followed by another large outdoor softball tournament. This fall the TSSAA Middle School Cross Country State Finals takes place October 1-2 at Weakley Park, and the TACA East vs. West All-Star Football Championship happens December 7-10 at Austin Peay State University.
“Fortunately, we weren’t completely shut down,” said Visit Clarksville Executive Director, Theresa Harrington. “Competitive sports, especially outdoor events, did still happen. We are blessed to have facilities that can accommodate those, and we worked with event organizers to make sure protocols were in place that kept everyone safe and still provided an excellent guest experience. In most cases, we are seeing fewer teams and attendance, but the good news is that people are traveling again, and that boosts the economy and benefits everyone.”
Cunningham also expressed optimism about the future of tourism in Montgomery County.
“From a tourism standpoint, we have a well-rounded economy because we’re not dependent on one primary attraction,” he said. “We have outstanding recreational assets and scenic beauty, historic attractions, family fun centers, entertainment, performing and visual arts, local shopping, a diverse food scene, and an emerging craft beverage scene. It's been a hard year and many businesses have felt losses from reduced travel, but we’ve fared better than many places. We’ve had a good first quarter, so we’re looking ahead, planning ahead and expecting economic prosperity again for all of our industries.”
About Visit Clarksville
The Clarksville-Montgomery County Tourism Commission was established by the State of Tennessee in 1979 to positively influences tourism in the Clarksville-Montgomery County area by promoting tourist attractions, hosting conventions and group tours, and engaging in large-scale marketing efforts. In 2015, the organization adopted the Visit Clarksville brand. Visit Clarksville is governed by a nine-member board of directors and is funded by a portion of the local hotel/motel tax.