(WBIR) Sevier County could have one of its best years yet. Cities in the county are making more money from tourists this year compared to last.
"For everybody, I think 2009 was one of our best years. I can say this, we are within a hair of beating 2009 numbers since January of this year. So we're very excited," said Sande Weiss, president of Music Road Resort in Pigeon Forge.
A new National Park Service report shows that more than 9 million people visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) in 2013, spending $734 million in the communities near the park. 2013 tourism spending helped support more than 10,000 jobs in the local area.
However, those numbers are slightly lower than in 2012.
"We had a lot of challenges in 2013. We had 200 yards of our roadway wash away on Newfound Gap Road," GSMNP Spokesperson Dana Soehn said. "We had a really rainy year and that impacts people who are thinking about hiking, and then of course we had the shutdown."
The 16-day government shutdown in October is part of the reason the park saw 300,000 fewer visitors last year. But numbers for 2014 are looking better than last year.
"In just June alone our numbers have increased over 30%. And annually looking at our numbers in 2014 so far, we've seen about a 10% overall growth," Soehn said.
Tourism growth could continue in Sevier County through the state's new advertising campaign.
This week, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development launched its "Made In Tennessee" advertising campaign, an effort to gain global attention.
Weiss serves on the Tourism Committee that spent years researching Tennessee tourism. On Friday, she received an email from the state on its short-term success.
"Well my understanding is that 94 million people saw this ad in some form that was digital and in the email, it said it didn't include television," Weiss said.
According to the 2013 economic analysis, nationally visitors spend the most (30.3%) on lodging, followed by food and beverages (27.3%).