- The Tennessean
Drawn in by exhibits featuring Patsy Cline and Taylor Swift, a record number of people strolled through the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum this summer, museum officials said Friday.
Nearly 198,000 people made their way through the museum, a 15 percent increase over last year's record-setting 172,000 visitors.
The museum, which houses a 2 million-item collection of recordings, instruments, costumes and artifacts, receives about 500,000 visitors on average each year.
"This is more impressive because last year was our best year ever," museum director Kyle Young said. "If you look year-over-year for the last three years, all we've seen is growth."
Young credits a Taylor Swift exhibit featuring costumes from the singer's concert tour with providing a 23 percent jump in family and youth attendance, a segment of the population the museum is targeting.
"The general perception about museums is that they're old and static," Young said. "In our case, primarily given the subject matter, it's pretty dynamic.
Last year, 38 percent of the museum's visitors were 34 years of age or younger, Young said. "Absolutely, this is an audience we're trying to cultivate."
The Hall of Fame's record-breaking summer is in line with the performance of the larger Nashville hospitality industry this year.
Hotel occupancy at Nashville-area hotels rose 7.2 percent in the first eight months of the year, according to Smith Travel Research. Of the top 25 hotel markets, only Houston has experienced a greater increase in occupancy this year, the data show.
Nashville's tourism success in attracting visitors coincided with an increase in spending on travel nationally. According to a government report released this week, real spending on travel and tourism was on pace, in the second quarter, to grow 2.1 percent by the end of the year.