NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s no secret that Dollywood plays a big role in tourism in Tennessee.

“One of the things that we always talk about is that what’s good for Dollywood is really good for the entire state of Tennessee,” Dollywood public relations manager Ellen Liston said.

In fact, the Tennessee Aviation System Plan—a branch of the TDOT—released a case study last year saying Dollywood brings in $1.8 billion each year.

“Although we are about 20th in population base in Sevier County, we are third in the number of tax dollars that are delivered back to the State Capitol,” Liston said. “That helps fund things throughout the state.” 

It isn’t just Dollywood—Bonnaroo, CMA Fest, and the CMA Awards combine to pump over $100 million into the economy as well.

“What’s great in Tennessee is that we get to collect a tax in that visitor spending that, last year, was over $1.5 billion,” Tennessee Dept. of Tourism Development Commissioner Mark Ezell said.

Ezell is referring, in part, to the Local Occupancy Tax, also known as the hotel/motel tax, that goes to local governments from any place that provides accommodations. Also, the food tax in Tennessee is 4% and the state sales tax is 7%.

Tourism affects just about every industry—every visitor has to travel, eat and sleep somewhere.

“It helps businesses not just at the tourist attractions, like an amazing place like Dollywood,” Ezell said, “but the restaurants, the gas stations, the lodging opportunities they might experience.”  

The tourism industry is currently trending way above record numbers. Visitors spent $23 billion in 2019. That has the state on pace for over $27 billion this year.

“In 2022, we’re up almost 20% over our record 2019,” Ezell said about visitor spending numbers.