Johnson City enjoys fall tourism successes

Robert Houk • Nov 7, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Motorcycle rides, marching bands and the local music heritage helped to fill Johnson City’s tourism coffers this fall.

Officials with Johnson City’s Convention and Visitors Bureau said a number of events held since September have drawn more than 7,500 visitors to the city and resulted in a $5.25 million economic benefit for the area.

Brenda Whitson, who serves as executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Johnson City has “earned the reputation of being a good host.”

She said that “Southern hospitality” has landed the city a number annual events and visitors who keep coming back.

“Johnson City is known for making people feel welcome when they get here,” Whitson said. “People and organizations talk to one another and share information about our city.”

Economic development officials say $272.6 million was generated from direct tourism expenditures in Washington County last year. They estimate those dollars resulted in each household in the county paying $424.68 less in local and state taxes.

In September, the two-day Built To Ride Tour brought thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts from around the country to downtown Johnson City. Tourism officials said the city and the Southern Dozen received national advertising valued at $120,000 for hosting the Built To Ride Tour.

The city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau also hosted the Hills & Hollers Harley Owners Group Rally in September. It was the largest HOG Rally held in the United States this year.

The five-day event attracted nearly 3,000 visitors from 35 states and four countries, and included stops in Jonesborough, Greeneville and Shady Valley. The rally had an estimated economic impact of $3.75 million on the region.

Whitson said an average visitor will spend roughly $135 a day in this area. Data from the state Department of Tourism finds a typical person at a HOG Rally spends an average of $300 a day.

Johnson City also hosted 31 high school bands for a Marching Bands of America competition. More than 4,000 spectators filled East Tennessee State University’s Mini-Dome on Oct. 12 for the event, which had a $1.3 million economic impact on the region.

Whitson said her staff is working to make this an annual event.

“We determine if we have the facilities needed to fit the event, and if we have the support of the community,” she said. “We look at a number of different angles.”

The downtown was also the site of the Johnson City Sessions 90th Anniversary event on Oct. 19. Hundreds came out to listen to old-time music and learn more about the historic recordings.

That same weekend also saw the city host the Tennessee Federation of Republican Women at the Carnegie Hotel. More than 200 members attended the two-day conference.