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

Dear Colleagues,

While writing this message in my office, I’m looking out on a beautiful spring afternoon in downtown Nashville and thinking about the locations I’ve visited around the state in April. We are blessed to not only live and work in this extraordinary state, but also be part of bringing visitors to experience a one-of-a-kind Tennessee vacation.

This has truly been a unique and inspirational time at the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. Our office is buzzing with excitement as we work with our new marketing agency, VML, to develop the new brand campaign.

The tourism industry wouldn’t be experiencing our record success without the continued support of Governor Bill Haslam and the General Assembly. I want to thank the governor and each assembly member for appropriating an additional $4 million in non-recurring budget dollars for our Tourism Task Force Marketing Fund.

The department had the opportunity to thank Governor Haslam in person during a visit on April 24 to our office to review our plans and strategic roadmap for the future.  It was a great meeting, where we shared advertising campaign results, new creative concepts and the first VML project – The One-Minute Vacation, our 2014 Spring Marketing Co-Op. The One-Minute Vacation, featuring 24 partners, is an online digital campaign featuring video from three partners in each vacation. The campaign is geo- and demo-targeted by region based on the partners.

May 7 is Tennessee Tourism Day, and we’ll be celebrating in our Welcome Centers May 3 – 11 with special promotions and events. Tennessee Tourism Day is part of U.S. Travel’s National Travel & Tourism Week created to educate American residents on the importance of tourism to the local, state and national economy.

April was a busy month as Memphis and Nashville made global headlines with the expansion openings of two iconic Tennessee attractions.

The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel unveiled its $27.5 million expansion on April 5, which transformed the museum with new interactive, state-of-the-art exhibits and updated existing displays, including 260 artifacts and more than 40 new films and mini-documentaries. You won’t want to miss this very moving and captivating museum on your next visit to Memphis.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum more than doubled its size with the official opening of its expanded spaces April 15. The expansion includes 11,000 square feet of new gallery space, the Taylor Swift Education Center, additional retail stores, a new home for Hatch Show Print and breath-taking event spaces, including the main event hall with a gorgeous view of the Nashville skyline.

Governor Haslam attended events for both openings and highlighted the state’s tourism initiatives during his speech in Nashville.

The Tennessee Civil War Trail continues to expand and attract visitors from all over to explore and experience the history and heritage that is uniquely Tennessee.  We now have 294 historic markers along the trail and 99 applications that are in various stages of the review and approval process.  The newest markers will be installed in June.  I want to send a very special thank you to our Civil War Trails team for growing this program into a state treasure, as well as Dr. Carroll Van West and his team for preparing the content and historic images for the applications.

The department could not have developed and grown the Civil War Trail without the support and partnership of the Departments of Transportation and Environment and Conservation. Many thanks to Commissioners John Schroer and Bob Martineau as well as Deputy Commissioner of State Parks, Brock Hill, for helping us create such a successful program for rural economic development.

Before I close, I want to put the spotlight on Franklin, which was voted by readers of Garden & Gun magazine as the 2014 Greatest Southern Town in their 64-city ‘March Madness’ contest, besting Savannah, Georgia, in the finals.  The historic town also was featured in the April issue of Delta Airlines Sky magazine as one of 15 “Must Hit” destinations of 2014, in the company of such cities as Stockholm, London, Shanghai and Kyoto. If you haven’t experienced Franklin’s unique charm for yourself, head on over for a springtime visit!

The honors for Tennessee cities and communities keep rolling in, and that is great news for all of us. Congratulations to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens in Nashville, just named as one of America’s 10 Best Public Gardens as reported in this past weekend’s USA Weekend Magazine.

Of course, I could add several other Tennessee garden spots to that list – it’s just beautiful out there right now, from one end of the state to the other. Take some time to get out and enjoy it – and say hello to our visitors as they discover what we’ve known all along: it just doesn’t get any better than this!

Warmest regards,

Susan Whitaker

Featured Articles:

Tourism Week in Tennessee is Music to Our Ears

National Travel and Tourism Week is May 3-11 and May 7 has been declared Tennessee Tourism Day.  Once again, industry professionals are working together to showcase the positive effects of tourism on individuals, businesses and the state’s economy. Tourism contributes $16.2 billion in economic impact to the state and employs more than 146,000 people.

This year, it is estimated that Tennessee Welcome Centers will host visits and displays from approximately 250 destinations, attractions, lodging, food and shopping partners.  Adding even more fun for the visitors are musicians, artisans, celebrity impersonators, re-enactors, attraction mascots and “creatures of the wild.”  Rhonda Adams (Dickson County), Karin Davis (Humphreys County) and Beth Lyell (Loretta Lynn's granddaughter) will spend a day at the Smith County Welcome Center.  Together they will be playing Loretta’s music, while sharing a smile and stories!

In the Tri-Cities, Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City DMOs cater food to their nearby welcome centers and assist with traveler information while the staff enjoys lunch.

All 13 welcome centers will host partners during National Travel and Tourism Week.

In the local communities, from the Mississippi River to the Great Smoky Mountains, elected officials, community organizations and tourism professionals are creating events to spotlight tourism.

Memphis is having an outdoor event at Court Square to highlight all the attractions in the area and drive home the national theme "Travel Effects". There will be food trucks, music and lots of fun. The Metro Memphis Attractions Association will also host Shelby County legislators and local elected officials at a Memphis Redbirds game.

May 5-9 Hardin County is conducting a social media giveaway of items donated by local businesses.  You will find them on Facebook at Tour Hardin County and on Twitter and Instagram @hardincountytn.  Meanwhile, Polk County is also asking tourism members to donate items to be given away to guests at their own visitor center.  Crossville-Cumberland County and Monroe County will greet their visitors with refreshments too.

Get ready! On May 9 there is a "Tourism Rocks Open House” at the I-40 rest area at mile marker 73.   Mary Beth Hopper and the Southwest Tennessee Tourism Association will be there to answer questions and encourage guests to spend the weekend in the area.

In Morristown-Hamblen County, the locals are encouraged to “Be a Tourist in Your Own Community.”    Points of interests include Crockett Tavern Museum, General Longstreet Headquarters Museum, Cherokee Lake, Panther Creek State Park, festivals, art classes and more.

There is a new award this year in Nashville.  It is the E.W. “Bud” Wendell Award, presented by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. during Nashville’s 3rd Annual National Tourism Week Hospitality Industry Celebration.  Wendell, who in 1991 was named president and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment, also played a leading role in Gaylord’s launch of The Nashville Network and its acquisition of Country Music Television.  The luncheon will also include remarks from special guest Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA.

At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council (Sevier County DMOs) invites other communities surrounding GSMNP for the 30th Annual Celebration of Tourism Week.  The event honors Great Smoky Mountains National Park Employee of the Year and Tourist Family of the Day.

The Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association will honor their “Stars of the Industry” at a luncheon with the ninth annual Pauly Awards, named after Paul Sherbakoff.  Mr. Sherbakoff inspired the University of Tennessee’s first hospitality training classes, which began in 1973 in the Home Economics Department.

But what about the housekeeping staff?  Brenda Whitson, executive director of the Johnson City CVB reminds us that they are truly the STARS of the industry. Her team takes a pizza lunch, drinks and dessert to each of the lodging properties.  Meanwhile, the Tourism Department of Greene County Partnership will travel to five businesses in the Greeneville area to honor front-line employees with the annual “Presidential Pioneer in Hospitality Award.”   Recognition goes beyond personnel in the lodging and attraction industry to include those showing exemplary service in food and retail businesses.

For the first time, the Claiborne County Tourism Commission will honor two people with the “Award of Excellence in Tourism Development".  The first award honors a person in the community while the second award goes to a business group club or organization who has contributed most to tourism development in Claiborne County.

There are also National Travel and Tourism Week proclamations in such counties as Polk and Sullivan while the Johnson City Commission also commemorates the week of May 3-11.

This is just a sample of the way Tennesseans celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week.  Year-round, the focus is on our guests who make Tennessee their destination for leisure and business.

West Tennessee Travel Writer FAM

One stop on the West TN FAM: Discovery Park of AmericaOne stop on the West TN FAM: Discovery Park of AmericaThe beat of West Tennessee’s drum is being felt by 18 travel journalists during TDTD’s West Tennessee FAM which started April 29 and concludes on May 4.

Some of the publications represented include AAA Living, Spirit Magazine, USA Today, Georgia Magazine, Bassin’ Magazine among others.

Three of the travel journalists are fishing Reelfoot Lake, Kentucky Lake and Pickwick Landing State Park. The other journalists are experiencing an eclectic blend of popular, world-class attractions like Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Discovery Park of America, Shiloh National Military Park and the National Civil Rights Museum with small town traditions like Trenton’s Teapot Collection, West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, and Covington’s Historic Square.

The trip will end with a grand send-off at Casey Jones Village which will include the Providence House, the newest addition to Casey Jones Village.

Have a look at this brief video and interview with journalist Angela Gary

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 Update


The permanent Civil War exhibit was recently dedicated at the Dyersburg Welcome Center. The April event was attended by state and local officials and guests from the local community. Program participants included Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker,  Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel, Tennessee House of Representatives, Dr. Carroll Van West, Tennessee State Historian, Co-Chair, TN Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, Dyer County Mayor Richard Hill, and Dyersburg Mayor John Holden.

The purpose of the Civil War exhibits, installed in all of Tennessee’s Welcome Centers, 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.  

This Civil War exhibit 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.

For more information on the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial occurring Nov. 13-14, 2014 in Franklin, visit www.tncivilwar150.com.  


Franklin Civil War MarkerFranklin Civil War MarkerNearly a decade after Civil War preservationists rallied to acquire a former golf course on the Eastern Flank of the Battle of Franklin, the community, including state and local officials, dedicated its first fully interpreted battlefield park.

The Loop Road that was completed last year for public access to the 110-acre park has now been enhanced by 20 interpretive signs and three kiosks that tell the story of what happened there in 1864, thanks to a $240,000 grant from the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.  Local historians Thomas Flagel, Eric Jacobson and Rick Warwick collaborated to research and present compelling facts about the battle and its aftermath through the interpretive signage.

“The preservation effort in Franklin has attracted so much state and national support because it’s very rare to see a community come together like this to save its history,” said Dr. Carroll Van West, state historian and director of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. “The level of momentum leading up the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Franklin is incredible, and we are pleased to be a part of it.”

The non-profit organization Franklin’s Charge formed in 2004, when the former Country Club of Franklin golf course was threatened by development. Representing Civil War preservation with one voice, the group raised nearly $7 million to acquire the property. Organizations including the American Battlefield Protection Program, the Civil War Trust and several private donors made the purchase possible, and the property was given to the City of Franklin for use as a park. Since then, the City Parks department has done extensive work to the site, enhancing it for the benefit of citizens and the thousands of visitors who come each year to learn more about Franklin’s Civil War history.

The Eastern Flank Battlefield Park is located at 1368 Eastern Flank Circle in Franklin, off of Lewisburg Pike and adjacent to Carnton Plantation.

For more information on events related to the Sesquicentennial, please visit www.franklin150.com.

IPW, NASC and ABA Reminder from Sales Team

For the recently concluded IPW convention held in Chicago, the Department, along with booth partners Chattanooga CVB and Sevierville CVB, had 61 appointments with international tour operators on the tradeshow floor, including an additional three marketing and nine meetings with journalists. The Department’s PR team conducted a separate series of 35 meetings with journalists, (editors, freelancer travel writers, publishers) during IPW’s media marketplace. Tennessee’s floor presence at IPW included partners from See Pigeon Forge Receptive Services, Memphis CVB, Graceland, and the Nashville CVC. 

Of note, one international tour operator, Hotelplan Suisse, with help from Tennessee Tourism, especially Rachel Kisber-Obermeier, and several CVB partners, is organizing a Swiss tour operator FAM in Tennessee this month.  It will be one of the largest FAMS from the German-speaking countries, as the operator is planning to train 23 of their best travel agents to better promote their Deep South itinerary, which has been gaining interest and bookings recently. The group will overnight in Chattanooga, Pigeon Forge, Nashville and Memphis, with stopovers in Lynchburg and Jackson. 

Tennessee Partners at NASC Tennessee Partners at NASC At NASC’s Symposium in Oklahoma City, Play Tennessee conducted 33 appointments during the conference, meeting with Events Rights Holders who are looking for destinations and venues to host their sports events. Other Tennessee partners attending the show included Chattanooga, Cookeville, Kingsport, Knoxville, Memphis, Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg, Rutherford County, and Wilderness at the Smokies in Sevierville. 

As a final reminder for Tennessee partners, nominations for the ABA 2015 Top 100 Events in North America are due May 7thThis 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 as soon as possible, 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 click here.

Enjoy a roundup of important industry developments as covered by publications and websites. view now »

Turning Information into Action is Key for Tennessee Tourism Success

By Rebecca Harpole, VML

Many people these days talk about “big data” and its role in modern marketing communications. While it’s true that marketers today have access to more information than ever, more data doesn’t always translate into better marketing.

The role of VML’s Insights team is to make information actionable and ensure that every dollar invested promoting Tennessee is working as hard as possible to bring more tourists—and tourism dollars—to Tennessee.

In Tennessee’s recently published  Strategic Plan, there were eight stages identified when a consumer is making a travel purchase decision: learning, dreaming, considering, planning, purchasing, experiencing, remembering and referring.

VML is working with TDTD to align tracking and measurement strategies with these eight stages in an effort to guide and continually refine the marketing and communications programs. Here’s a look at specific systems the Insights team is creating for Tennessee:

Learning, Dreaming & Considering

For consumers who haven’t previously considered Tennessee as a travel destination, VML will analyze advertising and public relations opportunities to identify the digital, broadcast and print media outlets most likely to reach those who “look like” current Tennessee visitors and are likely considering a travel decision in the near future.

Digital media also offers the opportunity to target consumers geographically, helping the team promote specific Tennessee destinations, activities and events that are closest to them.

Because social media play such a large role in influencing today’s traveler, particularly moms of school-age kids, how consumers engage content on TDTD’s Facebook page, Twitter feed and You Tube channel will be measured.

Planning, Purchasing & Experiencing

Driving would-be visitors to tnvacation.com and persuading them to click or call for their free Tennessee Vacation Guide has traditionally been a key metric for determining the effectiveness of TDTD’s marketing and advertising campaigns. Additional measurements on how people came to be on the tnvacation.com website in the first place, and also see which pages they visit when they get there will be tracked. This will ensure increased site traffic as well as Vacation Guide requests.

Remembering & Referring

Research shows Tennessee visitors are highly satisfied with their experiences, which is great because research shows that positive words from a total stranger are many times more persuasive than advertisements or news articles.

Tracking review sites, message boards and social media, as well as communicating with known Tennessee travelers, and encouraging them to share photos and stories about their trips with others, helps build loyalty and increase tourism revenues.

In summary, there is no shortage of information available to marketers today. Applying that information is the key to making sound business decisions and investing budgets wisely.

Governor Haslam and the TDTD staff

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