Nashville’s tourism officials have two more accolades to show off.
Travel site Lonely Planet ranked Nashville as one of the top 10 cities to visit next year — and it was the only U.S. destination to make the list. TripAdvisor says Nashville grew in popularity among international travelers by nearly 40 percent.
This builds upon previous high-profile attention from Condé Nast Traveler and National Geographic, among others.
Part of this boost comes from the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation's international marketing: For example, it's advertising the city on 160 cabs in London right now (with Nashville's New Year's Eve celebration on Broadway promoted on the seats inside the taxis). It’s also airing a promotional documentary about Nashville's music scene in Australia, and it hired a sales rep in Germany to bring in more of this lucrative tourism.
“The international visitor will visit more than one destination and stay longer than a week to 10 days," says Butch Spyridon, who oversees the city’s tourism arm.
It doesn’t hurt that ABC’s drama named after the city is airing in more than 50 countries. “Fortunately right now, the TV show has helped us reach people that we couldn’t afford to reach otherwise," he says.
Still, foreign tourists only make up 5 percent of visitors each year. The biggest challenge to getting more, Spyridon says, is that there are few direct international flights in and out of Nashville.
"Direct air service would be a huge help and a validation of the destination," he says.
The city has been partnering with airline hub Atlanta, as well as New Orleans, to bring more tourists to the region.