For many communities tourism means jobs.  Jobs mean economic stability.  Therefore, tourism is an important aspect of livability for the local residents.  Tourism is also a great opportunity to increase physical activity.  Many tourism activities involve a lot of walking.  Some people even seek out opportunities for physical activity in their travels.  People will travel great distances to participate in city marathons, cross county bike rides or wilderness hiking.  Places designed for tourists seem to be liked more which leads to those tourists returning again in the future.

photograph of tourists enjoying landscaping and sculpture

How is tourism connected to health?

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development promotes tourism through five themes of history, music, natural beauty, family and experiences. Tourism is an opportunity to increase physical activity. Tourists walk all day through amusement parks, craft fairs, historic sites, museums and resorts getting more than their 30 minutes of recommended daily exercise.  Adventure tourism may further increase physical activity in travel. 

How do downtowns benefit tourism?

The history of an area is often connected to its Downtown.  Downtowns tend to be some of oldest commercial and residential properties.  Often there was a historical context that made that place important.  Maybe it was a railroad station, river port or strategic location.

Places designed for tourists seem to be liked more which leads to those tourists returning again in the future.  When downtown land use is walkable, safe and convenient people will more likely stop and stay awhile and even come back.  Thus downtown tourism generates visitor spending and local jobs. Together this leads to sustainability. 

What opportunities can parks provide?

Here are some physically active tourism opportunities to enjoy at a state or national park:

  • Birdwatching
  • Camping
  • Canoeing or kayaking
  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking
  • Rock climbing
  • Swimming
  • Trail running
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Walking

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is committed to providing a cleaner, safer environment that goes hand-in-hand with economic prosperity and increased quality of life.  Our 56 Tennessee State Parks and Natural Areas provide a variety of quality outdoor recreational experiences like camping, boating and hiking which can improve health through increased physical activity.  Visit Tennessee State Parks online to Find a Park near your community.

The National Park Service cares for our nation’s special places for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of this and future generations.  National Parks conserve natural and cultural resources while providing outdoor recreation.  Find a National Park near your community.

What are Trails and Byways?

Tennessee is home to three statewide and sixteen regional trails.  These roadway trails connect places of historical interest from town to town.   Trails and Byways were planned to guide tourists as they explore Tennessee.  The Tennessee River Trail runs through nine counties next to the Tennessee River.  The trail connects small towns rich in river history.  It celebrates Native American Indian tribes, river towns, and many Civil War sites.  The Walking Tall Trail explores West Tennessee.  It celebrates the expansion of America west through the Civil War.  It includes the homes of music from Beale Street to Elvis’ Graceland.  The Cotton Junction Trail is a journey through rural West Tennessee.  The trail explores the economic importance of cotton, rural towns growing on railroad trade, African-American history in the South and the growth of the City of Memphis.  The Great River Road Trail is also connected with Memphis and its history as a river port.  The trail follows that of steamboats and Civil War sites to Reelfoot Lake.  The lake formed by earthquakes in 1811-12 is now home to 56 species of fish and 240 species of birds.  Visit the TN Vacation website for more information about these and the other trails.

artistic logos of four Tennessee Trails

National Scenic Byways are roadways designated on their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.  There are 150 nationally designated byway routes with five located in Tennessee.  The Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway in East Tennessee crosses 43 miles through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests.  Driving at 5,400-foot elevations over the Appalachian Mountains offers quite the unspoiled view.  The East Tennessee Crossing National Scenic Byway stretches 83 miles from the Cumberland Gap to the Cherokee National Forest.  Also known as the Cherokee Warriors’ Path or the Wilderness Road the crossing has been used by Native American tribes, pioneers and settlers.  The Great River Road National Scenic Byway goes 2,069 miles through ten states.  In Tennessee, the Great River Byway connects scenic areas along the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Plain.  The area is rich with fishing and camping sites as well as Civil War history.  The Natchez Trace Parkway National Scenic Byway spans 444 miles from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi.  The byway came from old animal and settler trails.  The National Park Service ensures the landscape is protected and free of billboards and travel plazas with only hiking trails and camp grounds on the roadsides.  The Woods Trace National Scenic Byway is in the Land Between The Lakes.  The 43 mile drive connects with the natural beauty and recreational areas of alongside the waters of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.

What are Welcome Centers and Rest Areas?

In addition to tourist information, Welcome Centers and Rest Areas have places for people and pets to move and be active during breaks of their road weary travels.   The Tennessee Department of Health has been working in partnership with the Department of Tourism to provide walking trails at many of our state rest areas.  Tennessee’s 14 Welcome Centers and 18 Rest Areas allow automobile travelers to stretch, walk, snack, relax and recycle. 

What is sustainable tourism?

Tourism that sustains the environment, culture and heritage of an area can be called sustainable tourism.   Tennessee is a naturally beautiful state and it is important to preserve it for future residents and visitors to enjoy.  Visit the Tennessee Tourism Sustainable Travel webpage for more information about planning a green vacation.

What is adventure tourism?

Adventure tourism often goes to places traditional tourists would not dare.  Adventure tourism is travel that often involves some type of exploration and requires special skills and physical exertion.  Tennessee has several areas where adventure tourism is becoming more popular.  Whitewater rafting on the Hiwassee and Ocoee Rivers would be one example.  Mountain climbing or biking in the Appalachian Mountains are other examples.  Outdoor Knoxville and Appalachian Mountain Bike Club help people find bike trails in East Tennessee.  People enjoy trekking, hang-gliding and zip-lining and other active adventures.  Tennessee Adventure Tourism Districts designate special areas where adventure tourism is popular in Tennessee.

What is ecotourism?

Ecotourism connects people and environmental awareness.  Ecotourism promotes appreciation of nature, conservation of the environment and sustains the local culture.  Ecotourism often takes people to exotic locations; though special skills are not usually required.  Ecotourism is popular for encountering plants and animals in their natural places.  Ecotourism should provide financial benefits for conservation while financially benefiting the local people and the private tourism industry.  Ecotourism is often more than environmentally and socially responsible travel as ecotourists experience personal growth.

What is green hospitality?

Green hospitality is practiced by hotels, restaurants and other businesses that support sustainability, energy savings, recycling and corporate stewardship.  Green hospitality assures guests the places they stay, eat and spend money consider their impact on the environment.  Businesses invested in green hospitality efforts often save money off their bottom line and have a marketing advantage.

How does tourism support local economies?

People enjoy traveling.  Travelers are often physically active going from place to place.  Tourism is good for both people and economy.  Tourists are paying for their travel experience.  Tourism brings jobs like hotel staff, tour guides, transport drivers and restaurant servers.  Tourism increases spending in the local economy from hotel rooms to taxis and food to souvenirs.  Public Health benefits from well planned, designed, built and maintained physical infrastructure as does tourism.  Tourist destinations that are built for people benefit economic development even more.  If tourism is important to your community’s local economy keep in mind preserving land use and cultural sites when planning and designing new infrastructure. Tourism also has social advantages as their tourist destination becomes a matter of pride for the local community.

Government partners

Tennessee Department of Tourist Development

TN Vacation
Sustainable Travel

Tennessee Trails and Byways

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation 
State Parks