NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee paid thousands of dollars for social media influencers to promote a contentious new initiative that uses $2.5 million in taxpayer dollars to offer flight vouchers largely to out-of-state residents.
According to documents obtained through a public records request, the Department of Tourist Development paid an estimated $11,000 to at least 11 local influencers to post on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok touting the new program. Emails show the state had originally budgeted $30,000 for influencers.
To date, the state has spent more than $230,000 out of its $270,000 tourism marketing budget to advertise the program online.
Republican leaders and Democratic lawmakers have both questioned why tax dollars are being spent on tourists’ airfare.