By BROOKE WANSER
The first-ever U.S. Music Tourism Convention is scheduled to begin on Thursday at the Factory in Franklin.
Pilgrimage Festival and Sound Diplomacy, an international music agency, have partnered with the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring the two-day convention to a city with a heritage rooted in music.
Holding the conference in Franklin seemed a logical choice, given the county’s recent boost in tourism. In 2016, 1.43 million visitors traveled to Franklin, a 9.4 percent increase from 2015. And they spent more, too; economic impact grew from $410 million in 2015 to a record $427.25 million in 2016.
“The conference as a whole, it’s rare that it focuses just on music as a reason for tourism,” said visitor’s bureau public relations manager Matthew Maxey. “It can be such a driver for economic development. There’s not been one in the states before that’s just on that topic.”
Maxey said Sound Diplomacy works with city governments to create music-friendly environments. “Their whole mission is creating music cities.”
The conference begins at 1 p.m. on Thursday, and will feature representatives from music destinations and places wanting to become music attractions across the world. Panelists will discuss how to simultaneously boost tourism and heritage of a city.
Speakers will include Kevin Griffin, the founder of this weekend’s Pilgrimage Cultural Festival and lead singer of band Better than Ezra; Stacey Wilhelm, the senior manager at SXSW (South by Southwest) Music Festival; Judy Hood, the president of the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation; and Julian Guerrero Orozco, the vice president of tourism in Colombia, South America.