The economic impact of tourism in Anderson County and Oak Ridge has increased for a second year in a row.
In September, the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development released its 2015 annual report showing that visitors to Anderson County, which includes Oak Ridge, were responsible for spending more than $119 million in the county, an increase of 2.9 percent over the previous year, a press release said. Visitor spending in Anderson County yielded nearly $3 million in local sales tax.
“Marketing efforts continue to pay off as part of an organized effort to increase tourism in Oak Ridge and Anderson County,” Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank said in the press release. “Tourism is not only a way to increase our tax revenues, but the people who visit us positively add to the fabric and culture of our community—making tourism investment an all-around win.”
In its annual report, Explore Oak Ridge released data that showed Oak Ridge hotel revenue was up by 11 percent compared to the previous year (hotel revenue is a typical measure tourism’s economic effect on a city). Local tax generated from Oak Ridge hotels exceeded $585,000 in the 2015-16 fiscal year.
“These tax dollars are important to the city because they come from visitors, and visitors seldom use costly municipal services like police, schools, and fire department,” Explore Oak Ridge President Marc DeRose said. “Hotel tax collected represents a valuable net tax gain for the city.”
The Explore Oak Ridge report also shed light on Oak Ridge’s unique attractions. One of the most popular Oak Ridge attractions is the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Tourists can take a daily bus tour to sites like the Graphite Reactor, the first nuclear reactor built for continuous operation.
“The bus tours are a great thing for both the Park and the museum,” said Robbie Meyer, park ranger at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. “Without this tour, the general public would not have a chance to visit these historic buildings that are so significant to the story of the Manhattan Project. I have met people from all over the country who have come here just to take the tour of the Graphite Reactor. Tickets sell out very fast, so make sure you get your tickets early.”
In addition to its historic draw, visitors to Oak Ridge come from far and wide to experience its wealth of natural attractions from mountain biking at Haw Ridge Park to rowing on Melton Lake, the press release said. As one of the nation’s best rowing venues, Oak Ridge has attracted rowing events that bring more than 10,000 visitors annually to the area. Recently, the United States Rowing Association awarded Oak Ridge the 2017 Masters National Rowing Championship—a multi-day event that will bring more than 2,000 rowers to the city.
“Rowing visitors are important to Oak Ridge’s tourism effort,” DeRose said. “They not only fill Oak Ridge hotels but also those of Anderson and Knox counties, providing a considerable regional economic impact. Oak Ridge’s outdoor attractions are extremely valuable tourism assets, and we’ve just begun to develop them. We expect that they will be a key factor in attracting many more visitors to Oak Ridge in the future.”
Tourism’s impact on cities and counties in Tennessee has become the topic of much discussion in recent years, the press release said. In its 2015 annual report, the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development released its annual performance statistics showing that tourists to Tennessee spent more than $18 billion last year (up 2.9 percent from the previous year). This translates into $1.6 billion in local and state sales tax revenue and was responsible for supporting more than 157,000 jobs in Tennessee.
“The 2015 economic impact numbers clearly show that tourism is a viable and effective form of economic development,” DeRose said. “Counties and municipalities all over Tennessee are seeing outstanding returns from their investment in tourism; Anderson County and Oak Ridge are no exception.”
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