By Pam Horne, Managing Editor
With the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin a little more than a year away, the local economy is poised for a surge of new tourism, though, by all accounts, the past two years have already produced a victory.
Williamson County has gained a growing market share of what has become Tennessee’s second leading industry.
It is an industry that provides 2,790 jobs locally, according to Mark Shore, Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau (WCCVB) Executive Director.
State data, collected by calendar year cycles, indicates that out of 95 counties, Williamson finished sixth in 2012, Shore said.
Economically, that means tourism spending grew by 7.8 percent to encompass $358.22 million,
That news was recently shared by state Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker.
Comparatively, Tennessee experienced a 5.2 percent increase in 2012, equating to $16.157 billion in visitor expenditures.
The (WCCVB), the official destination marketing organization for the City of Franklin and Williamson County, operates from a set percentage of lodging taxes collected from visitors each year.
“As of the end of July 2013, lodging tax collections for Williamson County are up $109,000 over the same period in 2012,” Shore said.
The WCCVB is charged with growing travel-related spending in the county by re-investing those dollars to promote the county’s tourism assets to leisure travelers, group tours and meetings and conferences.
“The Convention and Visitors Bureau staff and board is committed to growing Williamson County’s economy through tourism,” said Steve Smith, current WCCVB Board Chair and County Commissioner.
“We’ve moved this county from the number eight position in 2008 to a solid hold on the number six position for the past three years. The real benefit of tourism is what it does for our citizens. If not for visitor spending and the tax revenue generated, each Williamson County household would pay $424.16 more to make up the difference,” Smith added.
Shore noted that traffic to the WCCVB center at Fourth Avenue and Main Street is up 39 percent to date over the same period last year.
“This puts the visitor center on track to welcome nearly 30,000 visitors this (calendar) year, In 2008 that number was 7,600,” Shore said.
The state report reveals that $7.25 million was generated for local government from visitor paid sales tax alone.
Williamson County has 33 hotels with almost 4,000 hotel rooms. In addition to visitors’ sales tax revenue, hotels collected $3.37 million in lodging taxes for Williamson County, while Franklin pulled in an additional $2.25 million and Brentwood $1.12 million in 2012.
“Visitor spending helps the bottom line of every household in our county. The CVB uses research based strategic marketing to obtain the best Return on Investment: more visitors, staying longer, spending more money,” Shore explained.
Longtime County Commissioner and CVB board member Judy Hayes reflected this week on the accomplishments she said were “phenomenal.”
“I am so proud of the success. It has been a team effort and united partnership that has managed to save tax dollars for every household. It has brought a lot of attention and publicity to our area. It’s really helped to make Franklin and Williamson County a destination and not just a pass through. It just couldn’t have happened with just one person.”
The road to this success, Hayes said, has been long, beginning in the mid-1970s when then chamber director Nancy Conway, entrepreneur and civic leader Calvin LeHew and banker Virginia White led the way.
The next phase came in the 1990s, when Hayes said there was involvement all groups—The Heritage Foundation, businesses, Downtown Franklin Association, and county parks and recreation. Later that expanded to the city of Franklin and hoteliers.
Hayes, a lifelong Williamson Countian, has always stayed on message over the years, as she has worked to bolster support for tourism and ultimately a convention and visitor’s bureau.
“Tourism at its best is the cleanest industry you can have. You do not have to build schools or infrastructure. And the other thing is it gives us a way to express the strong pride we all feel for our community.”
Posted on: 10/3/2013