Tennessee Department of Tourist Development presents June 2012 Rythm & News for industry partners of Tennessee
Articles Industry Trends Calendar Noteworthy Tips
A Message from
Commissioner Susan Whitaker

Dear Colleagues,

Summer is here and early reports indicate that it will be a record-breaking year, and I’m not just talking about the red hot temperatures! Tennessee’s busiest travel season is off to a strong start with partners throughout the state reporting strong attendance. I don’t know when I’ve seen the state look so lush and green as it does this year. Our visitors are going to have a great time!

Things are also in high gear in Tourist Development with the launch of tnvacation.com’s summer microsite and an invitation to our summer tourist to “Activate Your Adrenaline.”  This dynamic new site allows the user to discover Tennessee’s outdoor adventure opportunities in a very engaging way. An innovative feature of the site is the Adrenaline-O-Meter, which allows users to select the level of adventure they are looking for, on a scale from “relaxing” to “extreme,” while researching Tennessee’s attractions and activities.

This outdoor adventure micro-site comes at a particularly good time for the industry. According to a study recently completed by research firm D.K. Shifflet & Associates, travelers to Tennessee are three times more likely to engage in outdoor activity during their vacation here than when visiting other destinations. Makes sense to me – this is one beautiful state.  A summer site geared to Tennessee’s great outdoors is the perfect fit for our visitors.

It’s been a big month for our great state partners, the Department of Environment and Conservation. Congratulations to Commissioner Bob Martineau, Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill and all of TDEC on their recent grand opening of Cummins Falls State Park, Tennessee’s 54th state park in our award-winning state park system.

We are so pleased to host the Tennessee State Parks 75th Anniversary’s new microsite on tnvacation.com, which officially launched the last week of May. State parks are such an important part of Tennessee’s vacation offerings, especially in rural Tennessee, and we are proud to partner with TDEC in promoting these wonderful destinations.

Tennessee’s summer season gets started on a high note with some of the most important music festivals in the world. Bonnaroo in Manchester celebrates 11 years this year. Chattanooga’s Riverbend marks their 30th.  CMA Fest in Nashville is turning 41 and is more popular than ever! Summer festivals and events bring out the best in Tennessee.  Also coming up in June, Johnson City’s Blue Plum Festival, Music On Main in Linden, Bluegrass At the Amphitheatre in Sparta, and Ripley’s Downtown Summer Concert Series, just to name a few. The music never ends in Tennessee, and we’re definitely playing your song! 

On June 15, the opening day of Oak Ridge’s Secret City Festival, we will launch the Top Secret Discover Tennessee Trail at A.K. Bissell Park. On June 26, the Cotton Junction Trail launches from the porch of the newly-restored historic Providence House at Casey Jones Village.

Commissioner Whitaker and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero at the Blackberry Farm luncheon during Knoxville’s International Biscuit Festival.  PHOTO CREDIT: Moxley CharmichaelCommissioner Whitaker and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero at the Blackberry Farm luncheon during Knoxville’s International Biscuit Festival. PHOTO CREDIT: Moxley CharmichaelThe Cotton Junction event will be a great celebration as we mark the completion of all 16 trail launches of the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways initiative. The event in Jackson coincides with the Tourism Committee meeting, taking place the evening of June 26, with the public forum being held the morning of June 27. Please make your plans to join us in Jackson.

I’m pleased to officially announce the approval of Tourist Development’s 2012-2013 budget. My sincere thanks to Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly for their continued support of the tourism industry.  

There is no doubt in my mind that this support is in recognition of your hard work and dedication that continues to position Tennessee as one of the most important travel destinations in the U.S. Thank you for taking the time to update your legislators on the significance of this powerful economic engine called tourism.

Have a wonderful season,

Susan Whitaker

P.S. Hope you like the redesign of this monthly newsletter – Rhythm & News, a tie-in to our overall branding strategy “Tennessee – We’re Playing Your Song.”

Special thanks to our agency partner Designsensory for this fresh new look and a few added features. The newsletter will continue to provide you, our partners, with relevant tourism news, industry trends and much more.

Featured Articles:

Tennessee's New Summer Site and Sweepstakes Urges: “Activate Your Adrenaline”

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development announces the launch of a new summer website calling Tennessee visitors  to “Activate Your Adrenaline in Tennessee This Summer.” The new site kicks the outdoor adventure theme into high gear and encourages travelers to take off, roam free and dive into outdoor adventure.

This dynamic new site was developed by agency partner Designsensory utilizing a vertical parallax technology which allows the user to scroll down and explore multiple facets of Tennessee’s outdoor adventure. Another interactive aspect is the Adrenaline O-Meter, which allows users to click the meter “relaxing to extreme” when searching Tennessee’s attractions and activities.

In conjunction with the summer site, visitors can enter the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s “Activate Your Adrenaline” summer sweepstakes for a chance to win an outdoor adventure getaway to the Smoky Mountains.

The thrill-seeking grand prize getaway includes a 3-night stay at Music Road Hotel in the heart of Pigeon Forge; Smoky Mountain Outdoors Whitewater rafting for four on the Pigeon River; Adrenaline pumping ride for four on ZYDRO by ZORB Smoky Mountains; Zip lining for two and a ropes course for two at Rafting in the Smokies; Family fun and outdoor adventure for four at Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country.


State Parks Launches 75th Anniversary Microsite

In commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of Tennessee State Parks, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation launched an innovative new microsite at www.tnstateparks75.com

Established in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the microsite displays Tennessee State Parks’ rich heritage and showcases the many outdoor adventures awaiting state park visitors through rich media and dynamic content.

The microsite highlights a wide range of richly-illustrated content that can be used as a tool to plan a visit to one of Tennessee’s 54 state parks. Paying tribute to Tennessee State Parks’ 75th Anniversary, the microsite also includes an interactive historical timeline. Additional details about Tennessee State Parks’ microsite include: 

  • Plan Your Visit – An interactive trip-planning tool, which includes a “filter by” feature. With just a few clicks, visitors can plan a trip based on their favorite activity or feature.
  • Timeline – Time travel through history and explore Tennessee State Parks’ interactive timeline that stretches all the way back to the beginning of the state parks’ system to the most current events.  Designed to reveal stories about Tennessee, the timeline explains how the state’s rich history relates directly to your life.
  • Share Your Memories Contest – Have a favorite Tennessee State Park memory or photo? Dig up those old photos, depicting either recent trips or trips from yesteryear, and share it with Tennessee State Parks on Facebook for a chance to win a one-night stay at any Tennessee State Park Inn or dinner for two at any state park restaurant.
  • Junior Ranger Game – Do you have what it takes to be a Tennessee State Parks Jr. Ranger? Test your knowledge of Tennessee’s flora and fauna.
  • Events - Listing for upcoming 75th Anniversary events at Tennessee State Parks.
  • Coming Soon – An online store featuring 75th Anniversary merchandise.  

The new Tennessee State Parks 75th Anniversary microsite was developed by Tourist Development’s web development partner, Designsensory of Knoxville.  The microsite was funded through proceeds from Tennessee State Parks’ vendor agreement with Pepsi Beverages Company. 

American Queen Comes Home

Priscilla Presley christens the American QueenPriscilla Presley christens the American QueenThe Queen is home and with her she brings back Mississippi River glory days, a time when the steamboat ruled the waterways. Steeped in history and tradition, the refurbished, 436-passenger American Queen Steamboat, now calls Memphis home port. The six-deck, 418 foot long steamboat is the largest to ever navigate America’s rivers.

Parent company HMS Global Maritime headquartered its 300 employee American Queen operating company in Memphis and made a commitment to city leaders that they would hire local. The steamboat will also bring in thousands of tourists for the 10 cruise season that begins or ends here. Officials have said that the first three cruises are sold out. Mayor A C Wharton said, “It is great for the city, and not merely from the tourism aspect, but also for the jobs on board.” Great American has promised to hire locally, buy locally and increase tourism and in turn the mayor and city council supported a $9 million dollar loan to give life to the $31 million dollar venture.

A floating dock at Beale Street Landing will house the American Queen when she makes her stops in Memphis. Beale Street Landing, is a place for people to eat, drink, play, and dock a boat on the Mississippi River at Memphis. When the American Queen is out, cruising the Mississippi, the common boating population can dock their personal boats and come ashore for a bite to eat and visit local sites. A grassy arch connecting the landing to Tom Lee Park, is designed to be a gathering place for the general public.

 From locally made Dinstuhl’s Chocolates on the pillows, Tennessee Waltz being played on the calliope and Priscilla Presley breaking the ceremonial bottle of champagne this boat is much more than a business venture, this boat is Memphis.

Rocky Top Trail Launched From Gatlinburg

Vicki Simms, Toks Omishakin, Susan Whitaker and Mike Werner unveil Rocky Top signVicki Simms, Toks Omishakin, Susan Whitaker and Mike Werner unveil Rocky Top signRocky Top: Smoky Peaks to Crafts and Creeks, the 14th statewide trail in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program, was launched on May 15 at Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler in downtown Gatlinburg. The new 282 mile driving trail encompasses seven East Tennessee counties and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Rocky Top places special emphasis on the artists, artisans and musicians and their works on display in Sevier, Cocke, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe and Blount counties. Travelers along the trail will also appreciate the history, culture, landscape, cuisine and outdoor activities that make up the fiber of the region. The trail launch was hosted by Vicki Simms, Executive Director of the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce, with special remarks by Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and Assistant Commissioner Toks Omishakin, Tennessee Department of Transportation. “The trails initiative is one of the most comprehensive programs ever to be launched from our department,” said Commissioner Susan Whitaker. “We know millions of visitors are traveling to this region every year. Our goal with the Rocky Top Trail is to encourage travelers to get off the beaten path and explore some of Tennessee’s hidden gems. We want more visitors, staying longer and spending more in Tennessee.” Also making remarks were Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters and Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner.

The song “Rocky Top,” from which the trail obtained its name, was composed by the late Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who were inspired by the view of the Smokie’s peaks steeped in fog. The songwriting power-duo often vacationed at the Gatlinburg Inn, and later resided in the community. The bluegrass band, Monroeville, performed a rousing rendition of “Rocky Top” to close the ceremony.

Upcoming Trail Launches

Top Secret and Cotton Junction Trails, the 15th and 16th (and final) trails, are set to launch in June. The Top Secret Trail event will take place at 11:30 a.m. June 15 at the A.K. Bissell Park in Oak Ridge. The event will help kick-off Oak Ridge’s Secret City Festival.

The Cotton Junction Trail unveiling will take place at 1 p.m. on June 26 at Casey Jones Village in Jackson. This event not only celebrates the launch of this important West TN trail, but marks the completion of Tennessee’s comprehensive, statewide Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program.

The event will coincide with the Tourism Committee meeting in Jackson, beginning later that day. Tourism Committee members, as well as all 16 trail committee chairs and members and all trail project leaders are urged to attend this milestone event marking the completion of the launch of all 16 trails and byways.

SYTA Conference Coming to Nashville

Tourism partners in Tennessee have a great opportunity to participate in the Student Youth Travel Association this year, as the annual conference will be held August 24-28 in Nashville.  Preparations have long been underway to ensure that all attendees (estimated at well over 1000) will have the best SYTA ever!  But in order to do so, we need your help to show them true Tennessee hospitality, and why we are the “Volunteer State”.

SYTA volunteer opportunities are still available if you would like to get involved.  Not only will you help showcase why Tennessee is the best destination for student group travel with our friendliness and hospitality, but you can use that opportunity to network and build new relationships with SYTA attendees, as well as other partners across our state. 

You do not need to be a SYTA member to volunteer, and if your organization is not yet a member, this could be a great opportunity (convenient proximity and networking potential) to get involved and determine if a SYTA membership would benefit your organization. 

If you have already signed up to be a volunteer, or have been recruited to be on a committee, THANK YOU! 

If you would like to volunteer, please contact Amy Starnes at amy@visitmusiccity.com by EOD June 4. If you have not registered for SYTA, and wish to do so, go to syta.org. 

The Power of Empathy – Better Collaboration

For some, the term empathy connotes soft emotions, sappy feelings and a general sense of the “warm and fuzzies,” all potentially incongruent with business, boardrooms and branding. Empathy, though, in its truest definition is a powerful tool, integral to the brand engagement process, leading to insights and innovation.

The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of empathy is “The power of projecting one’s personality into (and, so fully comprehending) the object of contemplation.” In the blog post “Empathy: Not Such a Soft Skill,” Harvard Business Review (HBR) editor Katherine Bell writes, “It’s an act of imagination in which you try to look at the world from the perspective of another person, a human being whose history and point of view are as complex as your own. At all levels of management, empathy is a critical skill. If you can imagine a person’s point of view—no matter what you think of it—you can more effectively influence him.”

Although a broad spectrum of consumer information can be gathered from client meetings, online surveys, focus groups, ethnographies and other data-mining tools, the transformation from simple information toward insight and innovation occurs when everyone within both the client and brand consultancy incorporate empathy. This empathy toward the customer fosters positive solutions, but, just as important, is empathy among colleagues and client-partners.

In a recent HOW magazine article, “The Empathic Designer,” David Holston shared that “design success is often as much the result of the quality of the relationships formed with clients, as it is the quality of the design.”

5 Tips for Better Collaborative Design Relationships:

1. Humility: The ability to control emotions at critical times, and to maintain a level of detachment is critical for managing productive client/designer relationships.

2. Listening: Active listening techniques include restating ideas the client has suggested to reinforce the idea that you understand; being aware of body language that might communicate disinterest; focusing on the content of the conversation; prompting for details to better understand the client’s point; and, suspending judgment so as to not cut off communication.

3. Questioning: Being able to ask meaningful and relevant questions not only prompts the client to provide more information, but also positions the designer in a lead role, not just a passive tactical role.

4. Feedback: The ability to give positive and negative feedback is a key factor in creating trusting relationships.

5. Transparency: By providing clients a transparent process in which they understand what is going to happen, when it will happen and what their roles and expectations are, designers take a step toward building strong relationships.

In HBR article, “Leadership in a Combat Zone,” Lieutenant General William Pagonis, director of logistics during the Gulf War, wrote “Owning the facts is a prerequisite to leadership. But there are millions of technocrats out there with lots of facts in their quivers and little leadership potential. In many cases, what they are missing is empathy. No one is a leader who can’t put himself or herself in the other person’s shoes. Empathy and expertise command respect.”


Laney Shorter, KTSC, prepares "Many Many" thanks M&M's for delivery to tourism partners during May's National Tourism Week

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