Such a message is being brought to Cleveland and Bradley County compliments of the latest figures released by the Research Department of the U.S. Travel Association. According to this go-to organization, tourism revenue in Tennessee in 2011 increased by 8.7 percent, making it a $15.4 billion industry for the Volunteer State.
But that’s only part of the glitter. Here’s the local shine.
In the same year, total tourism revenue in Bradley County topped $112 million. The local mark constituted a 13.1 percent increase over the year before and marked it as the second highest increase — percentage wise — in Tennessee.
Obviously, the bigger cities and the geographic regions with a national and international flare for guests continue to draw in the biggest numbers in total dollars spent. But the Bradley County distinction comes in percentage of increase, and that’s important.
Why? We’re glad you asked.
The numbers offer a variety of messages and each is subject to interpretation. Two that most quickly come to mind are 1) if we build it they will come; and 2) outsiders are beginning to understand what we have known about our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown for decades.
Southeast Tennessee offers much to many. And Bradley County lies at the heart of that unique bounty.
We know ... we know.
Our opinion, and our interest, is vested because we hold a genuine love for this community. To this, we plead guilty. And for this, we bear no shame. With few exceptions, to live here is to love it here. Not all will share our sentiment. It is their right. But life is good where life is good.
Here, it is good.
That’s not to say we don’t have problems. We do. Some communities have many. Any who have none either should open the door to their closet ... or their eyes.
But that’s another story for another day in another edition of this newspaper.
Today, it’s all about the numbers and the benefits that our community enjoys thanks to those who visit our community in order to enjoy.
Admittedly, some travel through our town as a stopover en route to a bigger city, a brighter attraction or a tourism hot spot. That’s why somebody invented the interstate system and why someone else suggested exits, as paths into the towns.
But others come to Cleveland and Bradley County as a destination. They stay in our hotels. They dine in our restaurants. They shop at our supermarkets. They mingle in our mall and other retail establishments. They come here to worship. They choose our town over others for entertainment. They have discovered in Cleveland — “The City With Spirit” — an answer to a long-asked question, “Where can we enjoy some of the amenities of a bigger city in the safety and comfort of a small-town atmosphere?”
Perhaps “Cleveland” is not yet listed in the latest edition of Webster’s as that answer, but the U.S. Travel Association is reporting numbers pointing in that direction.
We appreciate the enthusiasm by which Melissa Woody, vice president for the Convention & Visitors Bureau at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, uses to describe the current and future outlook for our community’s growth — not just in economic development (in which we’ve done quite well lately, thank you very much), but in the preference of outsiders to visit ... and yes, to spend their money.
We especially admire her down-to-earth attitude about the practical benefits to tourism: “... Visitors helped pay the bills instead of our citizens paying more from our local pockets.”
Build a healthy community and they will come.
Grow a sustainable lifestyle and many will stay.