To examine whether tourism can effectively stimulate economic growth following a disaster shock, we apply a panel threshold regression technique to test the threshold effect of tourism development on economic growth of the 36 Wenchuan earthquake-affected counties in 2008–2016. The empirical results using the panel fixed-effects model show that tourism significantly contributes to economic growth, supporting the validity of the tourism-led growth hypothesis (TLGH) for the disaster-affected destinations. The results of the panel threshold regression model also indicate a threshold effect of tourism development on economic growth, implying that counties with different conditions of tourism specialization and industrial structure experience different impacts on the tourism-growth nexus. Specifically, the estimated coefficients of tourism on economic growth decrease with the levels of tourism specialization and industrial structure exceeding the threshold value. Based on the Tourism Area Life Cycle theory (TALC), we further divide the 36 disaster-stricken counties into six types based on the evolution of tourism specialization: Exploration-stage type, involvement-stage type, transition-stage type, development-stage type, consolidation-stage type, and stagnation-stage type. The empirical findings and managerial implications discussed are generally applicable to policymakers seeking new ways to invigorate the economy in other disaster-affected destinations.