With three rivers and many navigable creeks, Warren County enjoys a distinct advantage in profiting from tourism.
Adding Cumberland Caverns and the Isha Institute into the mix, this community could be a powerful magnet for visitors from across the U.S. and many foreign countries, Tennessee Commissioner of Tourist Development Kevin Triplett said Thursday.
“This county has done a great job” in promoting water recreation, mainly fishing and kayaking, Triplett told the weekly luncheon meeting of The Rotary Club of McMinnville.
The visiting speaker went on to cite Warren County’s other gifts, both natural and man-made, in attracting tourists and their dollars. “This county has every one of the draws,” he said, pointing to historic sites like Falcon Rest at Faulkner Springs and the musical legacy ranging from country star Dottie West to composer Charles Faulkner Bryan.
Leisure and business travel bring more than $20 billion annually into the Tennessee economy, placing that industry second only to agriculture, with a $35 to $36 billion impact.
Tourism is the principal employment for at least 180,000 Tennesseans, and provides a total payroll topping $4.3 billion, according to a 2016 analysis.
In Warren County alone, outside visitors contributed nearly $24 million to the local economy in 2016, creating a payroll of more than $4 million and adding over $2.3 million in state and local tax collections. Those “outside” inputs to tax revenues represented an average 17 percent savings for local property owners, Triplett said in a later interview recording for McMinnville public radio 91.3 WCPI.
Every contact with a tourist can have a pivotal impact on the local community’s reputation in the outside world, the Rotary speaker stressed. That goes for everyone from restaurant servers to store employees to the townsperson who is asked for directions.
“Seventy-three percent of people who have had a bad experience go on social media and tell about it,” he related. “Only one in 10 who had a good experience tell others about it.”
The half-hour interview with Triplett, a former executive with Bristol Motor Speedway and with NASCAR, airs on public radio 91.3 FM this Wednesday at 5:05 a.m.; Thursday at 1 p.m. and Friday at 1:05 a.m.