Tennessee campaign to pay for visitors’ airfare to promote tourism faces some criticism

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Now that Tennessee has fully opened up, Governor Bill Lee is shelling out $2.5 million in taxpayer money to boost tourism across the Volunteer State. The move has ruffled some feathers, though.

“Sun Studios Memphis, it’s been a lifelong dream to be there, and finally got to see what it’s all about,” said Ignacio Nanez.

RELATED: Tennessee to offer $250 flight vouchers for booking hotels

Nanez is a recording artist who took his family on a road trip from Texas to Memphis to see historic Sun Studios.

“Oh, I love it. I think I’m going to move to Memphis, ha, from Texas,” said Nanez.

Nanez isn’t a big fan of flying, but he said Gov. Bill Lee’s new tourism campaign, ‘Tennessee On Me,’ which offers a $250 airline voucher to fly to four major cities across the state, may make him overcome his fear of flying.

“I might get the courage to get up there and take him up on his offer,” said Nanez.

The campaign allows the first 10,000 flyers to travel using the voucher to Memphis, Chattanooga, Nashville, or Knoxville. All you have to do is book a hotel room between Sunday and Wednesday. Visitors can book until Sept. 15 and must travel between July 11 and Dec. 30, with one airline voucher per hotel booking, not per person.

“Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights are strong throughout the entire state. If we still have a weakness, it’s Monday through Wednesday,” said Kevin Kane, President and CEO at Memphis Tourism.

This program is expected to cost the state $2.5 million taxpayer dollars. It has gotten some push back from state leaders, including Tennessee Lt. Governor Randy McNally.

In a statement, McNally wrote in part he would have preferred a “more traditional approach” to tourism development rather than giving taxpayer money to mostly out-of-state recipients. He also disagrees with the promotion only being limited to four major cities when the pandemic hit rural communities just as hard.

If you would like more information on the promotion, click here.