PHOTO: The annual Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival is one reason visitation in Williamson County had reached record numbers. // File photo
Williamson County saw a record 1.72 million visitors in 2018, a 13.6 percent increase from the 1.51 million visitors in 2017.
According to information released Monday morning by the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, this marks an increase of 500,000 additional annual visitors to Williamson County since 2014 and marks the fourth consecutive year that the county has outpaced the national average for tourism growth, which in 2018 was 1.9 percent across the nation.
“The appeal of Franklin and all the communities of Williamson County continues to attract visitors from across the world because of the incredible people, places and stories that call this community home,” Visit Franklin President and CEO Ellie Westman Chin said in a press release. “We work daily with our incredible hospitality partners and local leaders who together create an environment that is welcoming to travelers and showcases the charms we as residents love so much.”
Available hotel rooms in the county increased to 5,198 last year, with 244 of those being added by the opening of the Hilton Franklin. There were also several new tourism products that opened across the county. Furthermore, the increase in visitors came because of several new events and festivals choosing to call Franklin and Williamson County home, along with a steady increase in meetings and conventions booked in the county and a sizable number of amateur sports tournaments, according to the release.
“When we refreshed the Visit Franklin brand last year, we were also able to greatly increase our targeted digital advertising efforts across the country to both leisure travelers and meeting and event planners,” Westman Chin added. “Those efforts and continued mentions in national and regional media outlets have also contributed to our increase in visitation, which in turn means positive economic activity will continue to support our local businesses and generate additional tax revenue for the entire county.”
In 2018, Franklin and the communities of Williamson County gained notable national attention when they were named among “The 25 Coolest Towns in America” by Matador Network and included in “The South’s Prettiest Towns” by Southern Living, and when Franklin’s Main Street was part of Architectural Digest’s “30 Most Beautiful Main Streets Across America.”
The outlook for visitation in 2019 is also encouraging as Mic.com has named Franklin among its “Best Places to Travel in 2019.” New restaurants The Grilled Cheeserie and Ruby Sunshine have recently opened along Franklin’s iconic Main Street. Additionally, eight hotel properties have opened or are scheduled to open in 2019, including The Harpeth Hotel in downtown Franklin. Together the new hotel properties will add an additional 1,000 rooms to the county in 2019.
The visitor count was compiled by tourism and travel research company D.K. Shifflet & Associates. Additional economic impact and employment figures from tourism to Williamson County will be released by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development later this year.