By WHITNEY GOOD
6 News Reporter
PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – Tourism is the means of survival for many in Sevier County, and Thursday they got a look at just how well the county is doing.
Economist and former UT professor Dr. Steve Morse has been studying tourism numbers over the past few years and presented his findings at the Area Attractions Luncheon.
“Out of all the counties in Tennessee, in tourist spending, Sevier County increased amongst the top of them,” said Morse.
In fact, Sevier County is poised as the third highest county in Tennessee for tourism spending.
Morse says $1.76 billion tourism dollars were spent in Sevier County last year with a steady increase since the recession hit several years ago.
Those dollars helped create 18,760 jobs directly related to tourism, something employees say used to be few and far between.
“When I was a teenager and went into the workforce, we worked from Memorial Day to Labor Day and we took layoffs,” said Teresa Karson with Rafting in the Smokies.
Morse says a lot of things help like drawing in new big events like the National Quartet Convention in September and playing up the big annual events like Winterfest.
“Attracting those kind of events during times when school children aren’t here fully utilizes your tourism product in ways it couldn’t be used before,” he said.
It is all news those who live there are glad to hear, and they hope the trends continue.
“It actually helps us with our marketing–where we want to market, where we want to adjust our marketing,” said Karson.
Morse also says lower gas prices are making an impact because more people are willing to drive to the Smokies and buy more things during their visit.