Tennessee Department of Tourist Development presents April 2014 Rythm & News for industry partners of Tennessee
Articles Industry Trends Calendar Noteworthy Tips
A Message from
Commissioner Susan Whitaker

Dear Tourism Partners and Friends,

I believe Tennessee’s famous hospitality has finally taken the lingering chill out of the air with a warm welcome for the thousands of Spring Break visitors from our neighboring states and around the country, even the world. 

As we thaw out from winter, I’m hearing terrific reports of spring traffic from one end of Tennessee to the other. I’ve even heard from partners that January and February were very good months – even with our polar vortex storms. Our beautiful Tennessee landscapes will soon be a lush green, filled with beautiful flowers and blooming trees…and not a moment too soon for me! 

Mirroring that wonderful change in season, TDTD is in the midst of an exciting time of change as we begin our partnership with VML, our new marketing agency. Using the roadmap put together by the industry under the leadership of the Tennessee Tourism Committee, we’ve been developing marketing initiatives and a new state branding campaign that is expected to launch in June. 

Over the last several weeks, VML and the department have begun an intense time of market research and testing of many of the creative components for a new Tennessee branding campaign. I am impressed with VML’s interest in having as much stakeholder input as possible before moving forward in the marketplace. This research is taking place throughout Tennessee and in a variety of targeted markets outside the state. Initial research has been extremely positive which indicates we’re on the right track. 

In March, TDTD and VML launched our first marketing project – the Tennessee Spring Co-Op, which begins in late April and runs through June. For the first time, we’ve created an online digital co-op for partners that is cost-effective, immediate, measurable, geo-targeted, demo-targeted and tailored for our partners in each area of the state. As of today, 23 partners have signed up to participate. Take a few minutes to look at this innovative program - www.tnvacation.com/co-op. If you were not able to participate this month, don’t worry – this is just the first of many similar programs in the future. 

As we all know, sometimes change is exciting and sometimes not so much. As of today, there has been a major change in the FY2014/15 budget which is currently being considered by the General Assembly. In the face of unexpected reductions in state revenues and in order to maintain the excellent financial standing Tennessee has enjoyed over the past decade, Governor Haslam has made significant budget cuts in every state agency, including TDTD, except the Departments of Children’s Services, Health and Developmental Disabilities.

The good news is that the new budget proposal for TDTD did not include any reduction to our recurring base budget. It did however reduce the additional, non-recurring Marketing Fund for Tourism Task Force to $4 million, which is a $2 million dollar reduction. That $4 million, coupled with the $8 million additional funding that the Governor and Legislature gave us for this current year, will continue to provide a strong foundation for launching a new branding campaign in key markets.

Spring also kicks off a busy travel schedule for tradeshows, including the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW (International Pow Wow) in Chicago, April 5-9. Members of the TDTD will be attending along with more than 1,000 U.S. travel organizations and more than 1,200 international and domestic buyers from 70+ countries. It’s a show packed with non-stop sales meetings and a tremendous opportunity to reach international media about Tennessee’s tourism destinations. 

Tourism takes center stage on a national level May 3-11, the U.S. Travel Association’s National Travel & Tourism Week. Since 1984, the first full week of May has been designated by Congress to illustrate the importance of tourism. The theme for 2014 is “Travel Effect”, an industry-wide campaign to educate Americans on the economic, social and health benefits of travel and tourism. 

TDTD will be celebrating in our Welcome Centers across the state during the week, especially on May 7, which is Tennessee Tourism Day. I encourage you to take part in National Travel & Tourism Week. To learn how you can participate, U.S. Travel has developed a toolkit with creative event ideas and other opportunities to celebrate the week. 

I wish each of you a wonderful spring and successful summer as we head into our busiest travel seasons of the year.


Susan Whitaker

Featured Articles:

National Travel and Tourism Week: Selling the Effects and the Facts

The 2014 National Travel and Tourism Week is May 3-11.  For the 30th year, tourism partners across Tennessee will join others throughout America to draw attention to the effects as well as the value of travel in their area.

“Features TELL but benefits SELL.”  The U.S. Travel Association, with its Travel Effect campaign, has taken a popular strategy out of the Marketing 101 “playbook” to promote the benefits or effects of travel and tourism in America.   The campaign proves, through new and original research, the economic, societal, business and personal benefits of travel, demonstrating the real truth behind the "hidden" impacts that travel can have on us all. 

In 2014, Travel Effect will broaden its focus to examine America’s “Day Off Deficit” and explore what it could mean to individuals, businesses and the economy if U.S. workers were motivated to use more of the time off they've earned and deserve.

Conduct a Travel Video Promotion.  U.S. Travel Association is doing a promotion titled, “What’s your Travel Effect?” The answer to that question, in 60-seconds or less will get two lucky travelers a wonderful weekend getaway.  Perhaps, your DMO could partner with a local TV or radio station to do a similar promotion.  Maybe tie in a car dealership or a travel agency as a sponsor.

Travel Rally Day is Tuesday, May 6, 2014.  This is a concerted effort to demonstrate travel's positive impact on local workers, businesses and economies – and, of course, on personal lives of travelers. Individual events are staged in cities nationwide during National Travel and Tourism Week.

The goal of Rally Day is to unite the local travel community with its supporters and publicly represent the importance of travel to media and elected officials.  In 2013 the Day broke all records with over 140 destinations doing creative things to create enthusiasm and knowledge why travel and tourism is important to their communities. 

The Tennessee General Assembly has declared by proclamation May 7 Tennessee Tourism Day.

This is another opportunity for our industry to help spread the message locally, regionally and statewide with our stakeholders and the citizens of our state. 

Present an Annual Tourism Ambassador of the Year Award at a public event, covered by the media, of course.  Many partners in Tennessee present awards or say thanks in person to front-line employees in your community.  Don’t forget opportunities for media and social buzz.

Suggest your head of local government to address the impact of travel in your community at a popular local attraction or tourism related business.  Maybe it is the grand opening of a new tourism related business.

Engage your community in a social media campaign along with a staged rally.

There are a number of tools available online to assist travel industry professionals with creative messaging in this year’s promotion of travel and tourism.  Visit the site, watch the videos and download the logos and other tools to fit your community’s needs.

Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College Scholarships Available

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, together with “Official” Tennessee Vacation Guide publisher Miles, will again be offering two full scholarships to the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College to tourism marketing professionals in the state of Tennessee. For Tennessee tourism professionals interested in pursuing educational opportunities, scholarship applications are now available. The deadline for application submission is April 14, 2014. 

The STS Marketing College is a three-year educational program for members of the tourism industry in the Southeast United States. From August 3 – 8, 2014, the courses will be held at the campus of North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, GA. During this week, students will experience a broad-based curriculum of courses designed to teach marketing techniques from all facets of the tourism industry. Marketing College professors are working, experienced professionals from across the U.S. who not only bring expertise, but real-world knowledge and experience to the classroom. 

From the time students arrive on Sunday evening until they depart on Friday, they enjoy classes, lectures, discussion groups and one-of-a-kind networking opportunities in an academic environment conducive to learning. Sample courses include: Conducting a Successful Press Tour; Writing a Marketing Plan 101; Inquiry to Fulfillment to Conversion to Database; and Generational Marketing. Students who attend three years of Marketing College receive a Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) certification, presented at a special graduation ceremony at the STS spring meeting. 

In each class students receive a syllabus outlining course objectives and method of instruction.  The STS Marketing scholarships will be awarded to two Tennessee tourism professionals and cover tuition, accommodations and most meals for the 2013 session.  The scholarships will be granted based on criteria established by the Tennessee Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (TACVB) in cooperation with Miles and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development which will encompass professional aptitude and future career goals in the tourism industry. The STS application is attached or you can contact Mary.Steadman@MilesPartnership.com or Abbie.Gristy@MilesPartnership.com to request an application.  For more information on STS Marketing College visit http://www.southeasttourism.org/content.cfm?id=4


TDTD’s Knoxville and METN FAM Hosted 19 Travel Writers

Travel writers join E.L. Morton around the “Keep Our Lakes Clean” campaign sign in Campbell County.Travel writers join E.L. Morton around the “Keep Our Lakes Clean” campaign sign in Campbell County.The mountains, winding roads, lakes and attractions along the Rocky Top, White Lightning and Top Secret Trails were on display for 19 travel writers March 18-23 on the “Lakes and Highlands of Knoxville and Middle East Tennessee” FAM tour.

Organized and hosted by TDTD and Geiger & Associates, some of the top outdoor writers for publications like AAA Southern Traveler, The Toronto Sun, Outside Magazine, Bassin’ Magazine and US Rider News came to Tennessee for adventure, fresh air and a fresh perspective on what Tennessee has to offer its outdoor enthusiasts. Some journalists fished and caught some impressive trout and bass along The Clinch River, French Broad River, Norris Lake and Powell River.

Others hiked the Devil’s Racetrack at Cove Lake State Park, checked out Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, glided in a pontoon boat along Norris Lake, saw Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge, toured the Museum of Appalachia and Museum of Scott County, and hopped into off-road vehicles for adventure among Tennessee’s extraordinary scenery.

Still others took to the road on Harleys for some of the best motorcycle riding in America along the White Lightning Trail and Top Secret Trail with stop-off points like Lincoln Memorial Museum and Cumberland Gap National Park to name a few.

It all culminated with a farewell houseboat cruise along beautiful Norris Lake and dinner at Bubba Brew’s, 12,000-square-feet of “Floating Fun” with live music and great food.

Tennessee travel writer FAMS during FY12-13 saw a total circulation of 145,730,320 and are a key component to TDTD’s national PR efforts. 

Civil War Exhibit Unveiling – I-155 Tennessee Welcome Center, Dyersburg

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission will unveil the new Civil War exhibit at the Tennessee Welcome Center 11 a.m. April 11 in Dyersburg. The program will include remarks from Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Dr. Carroll Van West, Tennessee State Historian, Representative Steve McDaniel, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dyer County Mayor Richard Hill and Mayor John Holden, City of Dyersburg.  

Permanent Civil War exhibits were recently installed in the Tennessee Welcome Center. The purpose of the Civil War exhibits is to educate visitors and Tennesseans as to the important role Tennessee played in the Civil War. Each Tennessee Civil War Exhibit features an overview of Tennessee’s role in the Civil War, as well as the regional impact of the Civil War and will also promote rural tourism development through the Tennessee Civil War Trail and Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways programs.

“Tennesseans are proud of our commitment to tell the whole story of the Civil War through our statewide auto trail system, our many historic sites and national battlefields,” said Dr. Carroll Van West, director of the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. “The new welcome center exhibits not only introduce our story and approach to any and all visitors; they are also part of the commitment that Tennesseans today make to the future: to tell the whole story of the Civil War and to remind everyone that the Civil War era issues of national unity and citizenship still shape our world.”

This project was made possible through a partnership with Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, MTSU Center for Historic Preservation, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, and the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and was funded by the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration, State Capital Commission.

The welcome center’s address is I-155 Eastbound, Mile Marker 8.7, Dyersburg, TN  38024.  We hope you will join us at this important event as we commemorate the important role Tennessee played in the Civil War.

For more information on Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial, visit www.tncivlwar150.com or download the free Tennessee Civil War 150 iPhone app, available at www.itunes.apple.com/us/app/tennessee-civil-war-150.

April Sales Shows Include Select Traveler, NASC and IPW

In April, the department will be participating in multiple sales shows.  First, will be the Select Traveler Conference (formerly Bank Travel) to be held in Huntsville, Alabama from March 30 to April 1st, 2014, where Bank Travel managers meet to determine destinations for their loyal base of customers who enjoy group travel.  Over 30 Tennessee partners will be in attendance at this annual conference. 

In the sports market, NASC’s Symposium, from March 31 – April 3, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, puts Events Rights Holders within reach via pre-scheduled appointments.  Play Tennessee will take a full book of appointments, meeting with Rights Holders looking for cities and venues to host their next big sports event. 

Then, in Chicago, Illinois, the department will be well-represented at International Pow Wow / IPW, from April 5 – 10, 2014.  Tennessee, along with partners from Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Sevierville, and Pigeon Forge, will meet with international tour planners and operators seeking to improve their product offerings or add to their U.S. travel destination portfolio. 

As a reminder for Tennessee partners that are ABA members, please note that nominations for the ABA 2015 Top 100 Events in North America, are open for submissions.  This annual publication is a listing of the top events/festivals in North America, which bring group tours to your area.

If you are nominating an event through ABA, please let the department know and email Bennjin Lao at Bennjin.Lao@tn.gov, as we will review and consider nominating as well, to help gain additional exposure for the event in the nomination process.  For additional information, please visit www.buses.org/top100.  For instructions, please go to https://aba.teameventmanagement.com/team/award/login.asp. The deadline for all nominations is Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

Be Who You Are: Honesty and Authenticity are the Keys to Repeat Visitation and Loyalty

Bill Patterson, VML

Getting visitors to come to Tennessee is one thing, but ensuring they come back again and again (and tell their friends) is why aligning brand expression and brand experiences is so important.

Tennessee’s success as a national and international travel destination rests heavily on the strength of the people, places and music that make us special, and because we almost never pretend to be something that we’re not.

According to research from D.K. Shifflet & Associates, Tennessee visitors give the Volunteer State a “Satisfaction” rating of 8.5 out of 10, indicating that we’re delivering on their expectations.

If you’ve ever watched television or bought a product, you’re probably aware of the difference between “brand expression” and “brand experience.”

The cheeseburger at the restaurant is never as thick and juicy as the one they show on TV. The car looked great in the showroom, but after a few thousand miles it started to have mechanical problems. You bought the face cream, but you still have wrinkles.

We’ve all learned to deal with such disappointments, but one area where people refuse to compromise is when it comes to how and where they spend their valuable leisure time.

In order to be truly successful, your brand expression—which can come through your advertising, brochures and other promotional materials—must match the travelers’ experience when they visit your community or attraction.

When competing for tourists and tourism dollars, keep in mind that disappointed visitors have greater means than ever (Twitter and Facebook to name two examples) to share their dissatisfaction with family and friends—and unhappy customers are ten times more likely to voice their opinions.

Here are three keys to keep in mind when creating your marketing program:

Put your best foot forward. If your town boasts a pristine lake ideal for boating, make the lake the focus of your brand expression and make serving boaters the number one priority of your town’s hospitality industry.

Don’t try to be all things to all people. In today’s world, the saying, “we have something for everyone” translates to, “we have nothing for anyone.” Focus.

Remember: you are part of something larger. Oftentimes, a single destination may not have the resources to attract large numbers of visitors. Instead of competing against your next door neighbor, consider joining forces to promote your area as a singular destination.

VML and TDTD staffers forever "Tennessee inspired" after a day with Dolly.

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