By Keeli Parkey
The Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce wants you to celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week by “being a tourist in your own town.”
“This is the 33rd annual event,” Chamber Executive Director Amanda Delp told The Erwin Record. “It was established by a Congressional Resolution in 1983 to unite communities each year in celebration of what travel means to American jobs, economic growth and personal well-being. Travel generates $2.1 trillion for the U.S. economy. It is one of America’s largest industries and supports more than 15 million jobs. One in every nine American jobs depends on travel.”
Travel and tourism also have a positive impact on Unicoi County. According to numbers from the Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee Counties Report issued in 2014, that year tourism generated $8.51 million in direct tourism expenditures, generated 70 jobs, produced $1.76 million in payroll, created $690,000 in local tax revenue and created $450,000 in state tax revenue.
Also according to the report, on an average day in 2014 tourist spending in Unicoi County generated $23,315 in daily expenditures, produced $4,821 in daily payroll, created $1,890 daily in local tax revenues and created $1,232 daily in state tax revenues.
The report also states that Unicoi County households pay $149.98 in local and state taxes because of the revenue generated by tourism.
“People don’t always realize how important tourism and travel are to the county, state and country,” Delp said. “Those are dollars coming into the community that are left in the community and we are not having to provide essential county services for. For example, when tourists come in here and leave tax dollars, we are not funding schools or other essential services for them. In the industry those are called clean dollars.”
Delp encourages county residents to “be a tourist” in their own backyards this week and every week.
“I think we sometimes take for granted all we have here,” she said. “Visitors come in from all over the country and they are just in awe of our mountains, our streams, our river and our trails. When they come here, they automatically fall in love with Unicoi County.
“We encourage everyone to spend time being a tourist in your own community. Get out and experience what people from all over the country are coming to experience. Take a rafting trip, hike, mountain bike, ride an ATV, visit downtown and more.”
Also part of the Chamber’s activities for National Travel & Tourism Week, Delp and Tourism Director Dawn Edwards visited some of the county’s tourism-related businesses and delivered a small token of their appreciation to them.
At the state level, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development celebrated National Travel & Tourism Week and launched the “SEE TennesSEE More Clearly” campaign at the 14 welcome centers across the state.
The initiative offers an added gesture of hospitality for Tennessee guests as tourism industry partners wash their windshields, symbolizing the opportunity to view the state’s expansive scenic beauty, a press release from the state reported.