An estimated 2.36 million visitors traveled to Rutherford County in 2018, setting a record for a second consecutive year, tourism officials said.
Those visitors spent more than $351 million.
The 2018 total was a 10.8 percent increase from 2017’s then record-breaking 2.13 million visitors, according to the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The visitor total was compiled by tourism research company D.K. Shifflet & Associates. Additional economic impact and employment figures were compiled by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
Rutherford County outperformed the national average of 2.6 percent for the fourth consecutive year, the CVB said.
“Our expectations have by far been exceeded with this exponential increase in visitors this year,” Senior Vice President of the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau Barbara Wolke said. “With the tourism industry sky-rocketing and Rutherford County’s continuing development and economic growth, our team is inspired to boost community involvement and welcome even more visitors to see first-hand what makes us Rutherford County.”
Wolke said the major draws included a number of Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) tournaments, from bowling to basketball to the Spring Fling. The Richard Siegel Soccer Complex is one of the top such venues in the Southeast, she said, and it is due to become part of the new Tennessee State Soccer Association facility.
Tourism-related spending in Rutherford County increased from $331.89 to $351.45 million, placing Rutherford County in the top 10 counties across the state for travel-related expenditures. The numbers reflect the highest increase Rutherford County has seen since 2013.
Another top tourism draw is Middle Tennessee State University. A 2017 study showed the university brings 500,000 visitors annually to spend more than $56 million.
Other top draws include Oaklands Mansion, Lucky Ladd Farms, Stones River Battlefield and the Sam Davis Home, Wolke said.
“Tourism is a big business in the county,” she said.
A record number of 1,168,397 hotel room nights were sold from May 2018 to May 2019, Wolke said. The 2017-2018 total during that period was 1,136,033, while the May-May 2016-2017 total was 1,098,922. The CVB expects 2019-2020 to set another record, she said.
A representative from the Rutherford County Hospitality Association was not available for comment.