KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — While it seems like the rest of the world has slowed down in the second year of the pandemic, one industry is booming: tourism in Knoxville.
According to Visit Knoxville's 1st quarter fiscal report, tourism has brought in more than $1.17 billion in travel-generated spending. Compared to last year, Knoxville saw an increase of 40.2% for people booking hotels during the same period.
"It feels like we're drinking out of a fire hose," said President of Visit Knoxville, Kim Bumpas.
There's no doubt about it: tourism is on the rise and Bumpas attributes this success to messaging during the pandemic and preparing events for when tourists did return.
"Even when... you couldn't travel, we still stayed present and said, 'but when you can travel, this is what you can do in Knoxville', and it created a lot of interest," said Bumpas.
Its not just spending and hotel booking that are on the upswing. The same quarterly report also showed that Visit Knoxville's website had 29,700 social media referrals. Engagement with the website had increased by 51% compared to last year during the same period.
"I think we all look at social media every day," said Bumpas. "So if you don't think that that's not a great way to tell your story of why you should visit Knoxville, then you've been missing out."
According to Bumpas, the Knoxville tourism industry is now reaping those benefits. Hotels are being booked, tourists are visiting events and people are spending tons of money. And this revenue goes back into the community, fueling Knoxville's infrastructure.
"We all benefit from tourism, because this is people that come to our community, they spend a ton of money, we collect that through hotel/motel tax, sales tax and we can then turn that around as a community and invest that back into our roads, our infrastructures, our schools which then saves all of us as Knoxvillians taxes per year."
For Bumpas, she doesn't see this boom slowing down anytime soon.
"It makes me feel great, it makes me feel so excited for Knoxville and I will tell you right now, 2023 and 2024 are just going to be crazy busy. And that is a good thing."