Border To Border, Tennessee Bets On Music To Lure Tourists From Abroad

Tennessee stepped up funding for its tourism department last year, in hopes of attracting more visitors through channels like social media. (Credit Timothy Wildey, flickr)

Tennessee stepped up funding for its tourism department last year, in hopes of attracting more visitors through channels like social media. (Credit Timothy Wildey, flickr)

The state’s top tourism official says it’s not “delusional” to think of Tennessee competing as a “global destination” for tourists who love music.  Commissioner Susan Whitaker told the governor during a budget hearing this week that music has reached a new level as a selling point for the state.

Some of the attractions are familiar: Graceland, Dollywood and Nashville’s brand as “Music City.”  Others feel more recent: the “Nashville” TV show, and the huge Bonnaroo music festival each summer.  Commissioner Whitaker says there’s something for everybody – and that surprises people.                        

“Well, I’m a Chicagoan, even me, stupid me, I knew Tennessee and music. I had no idea that it was all genres of music. In fact I thought Chicago, we invented the blues, and it was a little shock to my system to find out No you didn’t, that came up from the delta through Memphis.”

The tourism department’s budget for marketing more than doubled last year, to nearly $14 million, and Whitaker hopes the next budget solidifies those gains.

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