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Beautiful views are a big part of Smoky Mountain tourism.

Smoky Mountain Tourism Helps Tennessee Break Record

Tourism in Tennessee is on the rise, and the Great Smoky Mountains are a big part of the state’s success! According to a recent analysis of last year’s data, Tennessee’s tourism industry grew by more than 6 percent. Breaking previous records, the state brought in $17.7 billion from tourism in 2014.

Much of this economic boom centered around the Nashville area, but Smoky Mountain tourism played a very important role as well. As one of Tennessee’s top hospitality markets, tourism in Sevier County generated $1.9 billion last year. This spike in revenue makes sense, because the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had a record number of visitors in 2014 – over 10 million to be precise!

More Visitors from AbroadThe Old Mill is a symbol of Smoky Mountain tourism.

According to The Tennessean newspaper, the state owes this boost in tourism in part to increased interest from abroad. Governor Bill Haslam noted that “Tennessee is increasingly becoming an international tourist destination, and all of us are benefitting from that.”

The Great Smoky Mountain area is famous all around the world because of its spectacular natural beauty. As we become a more global society, more and more people who live outside of the U.S. are reading about the Smokies online and booking trips to come visit. The data shows that most of the vacationers from abroad are coming from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

The area’s famous Southern hospitality is another reason so many international visitors come to the Smokies. It’s hard not to feel right at home when you’re surrounded by some of the friendliest people in the world! Vacationers from abroad also love sampling local delicacies like fried okra, moonshine, and other things you can only find in the South.  

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a major driver of Smoky Mountain tourismThe Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Of course, the number one driver of Smoky Mountain tourism is the national park. Although the GSMNP is free to enter, the park’s millions of annual visitors spend money on lodging, food, and fun in the surrounding cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville.

According to the National Park Service, around 201,000 jobs in these cities are supported by spending from vacationers who visit the national park. Put another way, every $1 American taxpayers send to the National Park Service returns $10 to the U.S. economy. We can’t think of a better investment than that!   


Few people have done more to bolster tourism in the Smoky Mountains than Dolly Parton. A native of Sevierville, Dolly became a country music superstar and built her very own theme park right next to her hometown. At the 25th anniversary of Dollywood’s opening, Parton explained, “I always thought that if I made it big or got successful at what I had started out to do, that I wanted to come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area”.

Dolly has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams; her theme park is the largest employer in Sevier County! Dollywood has been an unstoppable engine for growth in Smoky Mountain tourism. During the park’s first season, tourism revenue in Pigeon Forge went up by nearly 50 percent.

(See Also: 2015 Dollywood Festival Schedule Announced)

Over 2 million people visit Dollywood every year, and that number will only go up now that the theme park’s new Dollywod is a central part of Smoky Mountain tourism.DreamMore Resort is open for business. With 307 rooms, a restaurant, a spa, and both indoor and outdoor pools, this onsite lodging for Dollywood guests is expected to bring even more tourists to the area.

If you plan on being one of Tennessee’s 100 million annual visitors, be sure to check out our complete list of things to do in the Smoky Mountains!