FRANKLIN, Tennessee – Visitor spending in Williamson County set a new record in 2022 by generating $1.195 billion in direct visitor spending, according to newly released data compiled by the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics and released by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. That is a 14.5% increase in visitor spending from the previous year and tops all previous pre-pandemic economic impact data benchmarks. According to additional data from DK Shifflet, the county also set a new record with 1.90 million visitors in 2022, a 10.1% increase. Those visitors spent $3.28 million per day in Williamson County.
Based on direct visitor spending, Williamson County remained ranked No. 6 of Tennessee’s 95 counties. It was one of only six counties across the state to surpass $1 billion in direct spending.
“Tourism is thriving in Williamson County, and we can say we are fully recovered,” said Maureen Haley Thornton, President and CEO of the Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Following the challenges of COVID in 2020 into 2021, 2022 was a positive and encouraging year for our tourism and hospitality partners across the county. The hard work of the industry and our collective communities allowed us to experience increases across the board, which supports our local businesses and pays dividends in tax revenue for our cities and county.”
Spending by visitors to Williamson County generated $80.5 million in state and $49.3 million in local tax revenues. Because of tax revenue generated by visitor spending, each household in Williamson County pays $1,522 less in combined state and local taxes. The hospitality industry in the county also accounted for 8,379 jobs, an 11.1% increase over 2021.
Locally within the hospitality industry, hotels and lodging again saw the most significant economic impact recovery from pre-pandemic benchmarks. Spending on hotels and lodging jumped 41% from 2021, accounting for $92.1 million of visitor spending. Food and beverage spending topped $111 million, up 11.1%, while recreation spending was up 20.9%, transportation spending grew 17.1%, and retail spending by visitors increased 5% over 2021.
The hospitality and tourism industry’s growth and positive impact throughout Williamson County was highlighted in 2022 by the opening of Southall Farm & Inn, which was included on several lists of the top new resorts in the world. Additionally, renovation projects of longtime mainstays like The Factory at Franklin and McLemore House, plus the continued draw of the county’s historic attractions and music assets, including FirstBank Amphitheatre, which completed their first full concert season in 2022, the Natchez Trace Parkway, festivals, and events, propelled the record growth in visitation.
“Tourism continues to be a tremendous asset to our entire county,” said Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson. “The revenues generated by visitors to our county allow us to keep taxes on our local residents and businesses lower, which we can all appreciate.”
Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, who served as chairman of the WCCVB board in 2022, said, “Williamson County has continued to excel as a destination for people to visit. The 2022 statistics reflect continued robust growth in revenues and numbers of visitors. The Visit Franklin team has continued to build on past success and lay out a successful plan for the future.”
Looking ahead, 2023 is on pace for another year of growth. With the continued draw of Williamson County’s incredible leisure tourism attractions, along with increased numbers of meetings, conventions, youth and amateur sports events across the county, the future of the hospitality and tourism industry is looking optimistic. The rest of 2023 and the year ahead will feature milestone events such as the 10th Anniversary of the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, the 225 Anniversary of Franklin’s founding, the opening of the 250-acre Peacock Hill Nature Park in College Grove, plus additions to the area’s historic sites like the new History & Culture Center in downtown Franklin, Carter House museum, and restoration of the Merrill-Williams house.
“The positive trend in visitor spending and the incredible benefit that brings to residents of our county is poised to continue through 2023 and beyond,” said current WCCVB Board Chair and General Manager of the Hilton Brentwood Nashville Suites, Tom Rybak. “As residents, we are all thankful for the tax savings provided by visitors choosing to spend their travel dollars here, and the increased tourism amenities like Southall, improvements to the Factory at Franklin, and more, which are all great benefits that residents can be proud of and enjoy too.”
The majority portion of funds collected through lodging tax each year is distributed to participating cities for use on tourism-enhancing capital projects that are also beneficial to residents, such as park improvements, and contributed to Williamson County’s general fund, where they help offset the expense of county schools, emergency services, road projects, etc.
Economic impact information is determined by the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics and then distributed by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. Values represent the direct impact of spending, labor income, employment, and domestic and international travel taxes.
ABOUT VISIT FRANKLIN Visit Franklin is the public brand name of the Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Visit Franklin is the official destination marketing organization for Franklin and the unique communities of Williamson County, Tennessee. Visit Franklin stimulates economic growth by promoting travel and tourism assets such as history, music, attractions, entertainment, the arts, and events to visitors worldwide. For information on Franklin and Williamson County, visit us on the web at VisitFranklin.com.