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Tourism thrives in Nashville, Tennessee

Feb 28


Tourism in the United States is a massive industry, contributing over $2 trillion to total U.S. GDP per year. However, the tourism habits of individuals across various income brackets can vary greatly. Understanding these differences can help tourism hotspots throughout the country prepare for growth and success in the 21st century.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan reports from Nashville, Tennessee, which he says is well-positioned for such growth. Zeihan argues that two lower-middle income groups, millennials and blue-collar workers, will be driving the next big wave of U.S. domestic tourism and affordable destinations like Nashville and Louisville stand to gain significantly from that trend.

Below is an excerpt from Peter’s Feb. 28 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Before I take the stage at the Country Music Hall of Fame here in Nashville, I figured we should talk about the future of tourism and where all the bachelorette parties are heading next.

There’s three demographic groups impacting tourism trends, and each of them is looking for something a little different. The baby boomers want specific experiences tailored to their preferences (less walking, but a bit spendy-er). The millennials are realizing kids are expensive and trips are going to have fit into tighter budgets. And the most interesting segment shaking up tourism are the blue-collar workers; they make up a large portion of the workforce and are leaning towards places like Nashville over traditional destinations.

Consumer preferences are changing, budgets are evolving, and international travel is just filled with too much uncertainty. So pack a duffel bag, ditch the passport, and go enjoy those domestic (or at least safe and stable) travel plans.

Everybody, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Nashville, Tennessee. I’m outside the Country Music Hall of Fame where I’ll be performing tomorrow, that’s exciting, going to be in the Bourbon Room, which you know, fits. Anyway, a lot of people have written in what I think about this or that industry. And one of the ones that I’ve kind of ignored to this point is tourism, because it means something different to everyone. And there’s a lot of things that go into the equation. But when I’m here in Nashville, I think that this is a perfect time to kind of discuss that, because Nashville is one of those original seal cities that formed in the early industrial era, and then as steel moved first to the Great Lakes area and eventually overseas, it had to reinvent itself. And it’s done so quite successfully as a kind of non-standard tourism capital. The question then is who’s going to be coming in the years to come not just to Nashville, but any place that happens to have a relatively strong tourist profile? A lot of folks are going to have to redo what they think of as tourism to match what’s a different economic and demographic.


So I can see for the United States three general categories, the first one of the baby boomers, half of them have already retired, the other half are on their way out. And they’ve kind of made the collective decision that they don’t want to leave a cent for their children, the millennials, when they pass on, so they’re going to spend, spend, spend while they can, which means a lot of that is going to be frontloaded in the next 10 years. Now, right now, the boomers are aged roughly in their 60s and into their early 70s. So you know, that’s a lot of old people who want very specific things, they’re not going to be doing exactly bungee jumping in New Zealand, but things like a CMA might be more up their alley.


The second group are the millennials. And it’s not just that they’re a large generation, it’s they’re finally doing things that normal adults do, and getting married, having kids, they just did it with six-year break. So one of the trends we’ve seen in tourism for the last 20 years has been the rise of the millennials, and them spending every cent of disposable income they have on their own personal experiences. Well, now they’re having homes, and now they’re having kids. And while they started later, and in a housing market environment that’s much tougher, they’re still going to want to do things as families, it’s just that they’re going to have significantly less money to do it than most of the generations that have come before. And again, Nashville, you know, is a lot cheaper than Vegas or Miami, so I can see it doing well.


And then you got your third group, which is probably going to be the single biggest and most supportive one of of the industry writ large, and that’s blue-collar workers overall. Overall, the United States needs to roughly double the size of its industrial plant, and build out a massive amount of manufacturing capacity that we just haven’t had for a very long time. Almost all of those are going to be blue collar jobs. And I don’t mean to sound like an elitist here, but the folks who are blue collar generally vacation different from the way that folks who are white collar do. You’re gonna have a little bit more of Bourbon Trail, a little bit more Nashville, a little less of wine trips, and a little bit less cruises. It’s a different sort of makeup. But the money involved is just going to be massive, because this is going to be the fastest growing worker demographic in the United States, we probably only have about 1/3 of the blue-collar workers we need right now. And that means the people who are in that industry today in that workstyle are going to make mad money, and we’re gonna have to train up a whole lot more.


Now, that’s the American picture. Once you go international, things fall apart pretty quick, because there aren’t a lot of places around the world where you’re going to see sustained economic activity of the type that generates the people who go on tourism trips, and the international environment is going to be a lot less safe. So the idea of transcontinental flights is going to become a lot more rare, places like France are of course forever, but the further east you go in Europe, the sketchy gets, of course, the Chinese system is more likely to just collapse in on itself than anything else. Makes for a very, very different picture. Anyway, for those who’ve been writing in on this topic for over a year, I hope that helps a little bit and until next time, I’ll be singing.

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