Smoky Mountain Tourists Spend $10M a Day According to State Report

visitors drive through downtown Gatlinburg

Sevier County ranks third in Tennessee for daily tourism related expenditures according to a state report (photo by Morgan Overholt/

Sevier County ranks third in the state for visitor spending, saving locals an estimated $11,294 in state and local tax collections

There may not be gold in the hills of East Tennessee, but there sure is a lot of green. According to a report from the State of Tennessee, Sevier County, gateway to the Smoky Mountains, ranked third in the state in visitor spending for 2022, raking in more than $10 million a day in expenditures and more than $2.7 million in daily labor income. In other words, tourism in Sevier County is big business.

Davidson County – home to Nashville and country music and hot chicken – ranked first in the state with more than $27 million in daily visitor expenditures. Shelby County – home to Elvis’s Graceland and Beale Street and the world’s greatest Bass Pro shop – came in second with $11 million in daily visitor expenditures. The actual breakdowns were as follows:

  • Davidson County – $27,326,795
  • Shelby County – $11,003,475
  • Sevier County – $10,315,250
a bar chart that depics the following: Davidson County – $27,326,795

Shelby County – $11,003,475

Sevier County – $10,315,290

Tourism is big business in Sevier County. A recent report said that visitors spend $10 million a day in expenditures. Visitors include both those who travel for a day trip and those who do overnight visits. With new attractions and resorts opening up in the Smokies, the numbers will likely only increase. For locals, this means tax savings. In fact, the average household in Sevier County saves an estimated $11,294 in state and local taxes.

A look at the numbers

The numbers are striking. Direct Visitor Economic Impact – money spent by visitors in one of five categories – was $3.7 billion, up from $3.44 billion in 2021 and from $2.75 billion in 2019. That spending resulted in 25,950 jobs and more than $1 billion in labor income. Direct visitor spending is broken down into five categories:

  • Food and Beverage: $0.7 billion
  • Lodging: $1.4 billion
  • Amusement and Recreation: $0.6 billion
  • Retail: $0.4 billion (more than half of all retail sales in Sevier County)
  • Transportation: $0.6 billion
a bar chart that depicts the following: Food and Beverage: $0.7 billion 

Lodging:  $1.4 billion 

Amusement and recreation: $0.6 billion 

Retail: $0.4 billion (more than half of all retail sales in Sevier County)

Transportation: $0.6 billion

What counts as a visitor?

There were two types of visitors, according to the report. Day visitors who traveled more than less than 50 miles from home, spending time in the destination market and returning home to sleep. Overnight visitors are those who spend one or more nights in a lodging facility, short-term rental or home of friends or family. The estimated number of day visitors to Sevier County is 22.3 million while the estimated number of overnight visitors was more than 18 million.

Well, it appears everything is up, up and up. After a dip in 2020, visitor spending in Sevier County shows little signs of abating. With massive new openings like the world’s largest Buc’ees and the new Dollywood resort, it seems unlikely that visitor spending will dip in 2023.

Will Sevier County change from the third position in 2023? It seems unlikely. While Sevier County only trailed Shelby County by roughly $700,000 in daily visitor expenditures in 2022, the overall gap is about a quarter billion dollars. And while Sevier County saw a robust 9.36% growth in visitor spending year over year, Shelby County’s growth was over 16%

What it means for locals

First and foremost, to Sevier County residents, it means massive savings on their state and local tax collections. According to the report, Sevier County visitors paid $241,941, 400 in state taxes and $173,864,200 in local taxes. That means – according to the state – the average household in Sevier County saved $11,294 in state and local tax collections.

It means that visitors from out of town and out of state are helping to pay for things like roads, education and public facilities in Sevier County in ways that make other – less popular – destinations green with envy. And it means that the tourism business in Sevier County isn’t going anywhere soon as if there was ever any doubt. Sevier County and the Smokies remain a massively popular tourism destination both for day-trippers and overnight guests.

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1 thought on “Smoky Mountain Tourists Spend $10M a Day According to State Report”

  1. I’m thinking that if those who live within the surrounding counties are helping to pay the things mentioned to improve, that they should be given a huge discount in what they spend in
    Sevier county. Seems fair to me. I wonder how greed will affect this idea.


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