Tennessee Department of Tourist Development presents February 2008 Rythm & News for industry partners of Tennessee
Articles Industry Trends Calendar Noteworthy Tips
A Message from
Commissioner Susan Whitaker

Dear Tourism Partners,

Even in the midst of winter, when temperatures are cooler and days are shorter, there is still cause for celebration and continued economic growth through tourism in Tennessee. The month of February offers several unique opportunities for people, in need of a quick get-away, to come here for a long weekend: Valentine’s Day, President’s Day and African American History Month just to name a few. It may be cold outside, but there’s always a warm welcome awaiting each visitor, ensuring that very important return trip later in the year.

Travel and tourism continues to be a major economic engine for TN with a statewide impact of $13.4 billion, a billion dollar increase for the second straight year. The 181,300 individuals employed in this industry have kept the Tennessee experience a compelling and first class adventure. Thanks to each of you who do such a wonderful job taking care of our visitors.

The 181,300 individuals employed in this industry have kept the Tennessee experience a compelling and first class adventure.In January, I had the pleasure of attending two significant and very successful events in tourism: the Agritourism Conference at Paris Landing State Park and the TACVB Blizzard II at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Congratulations to Commissioner Ken Givens and his Department of Agriculture and the membership of TACVB for offering such outstanding educational opportunities for the industry. Both conferences were well-attended and provided attendees with excellent information to grow their businesses. Thank you!

This month, the Department of Tourist Development will be holding two sets of important regional meetings. The first is for the Civil War Trails program which will take place in all three grand regions February 12 -14. Mitch Bowman, executive director of the Civil War Trails, Inc., will offer complete details about this incredible program, answering any questions interested communities may have.

The second is the next round of town hall forums in the gateway communities of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, February 25-27. These will continue discussions leading up to the Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit scheduled for April 28-29 in Knoxville. Additional information about both of these meetings can be found in related stories in this newsletter.

During these months, when things may not be quite as hectic, I hope you will take some time to visit other attractions in your region and personally enjoy our famous Tennessee hospitality. One of the joys of this position has been to visit many of our tourist destinations throughout the state. After five years, I've just scratched the surface - there are just so many wonderful places to discover. This is truly an amazing place.


WARM wishes to you!

Susan Whitaker

Featured Articles:

Tennessee Sampler Headed to Chicago

The Tennessee Sampler is traveling to Chicago the week of April 14-18 to impact the #3 market in America with the Tennessee tourism story. Your participation is needed! The Sampler is Tennessee’s premier sales and public relations mission, joining all entities of tourism together in one city to promote our great state! Sampler 2008 will be held just minutes from the Windy City, at the Westin-Lombard, Yorktown Center in Lombard, Illinois, a bustling suburb complete with high-end shopping, fine dining and international business headquarters. To reserve your place and confirm your participation, register now. The deadline to register is March 24th.

The Sampler of 2007 in Tampa saw more than 275 sales and 50 public relations meetings. The popular trade show and reception had 200 in attendance with more than 44 tourism partners exhibiting. Anticipation for Chicago is for an even greater number of sales and media meetings. Thursday evening will feature a high-profile trade show event and the blues, soul and rock of A-440, straight from Beale Street in Memphis. A favorite of Beale Street, A-440 will showcase Tennessee’s musical range, providing an evening of first-class entertainment. For a complete schedule, Click here.

For hotel reservations, go to Reserve a Room. The Westin-Lombard is located just 12 miles southwest of O'Hare International Airport in the heart of the Lombard/Oak Brook business and shopping corridor.

Make your plans now to spend a very productive, fun-filled week spreading the Tennessee tourism message to the great city of Chicago.


National Civil Rights Museum
Photo: Lisa Waddell Buser

African American History Month: Center Stage in Tennessee Tourism

Tennessee is a rich tapestry of American heritage filled with experiences and memories about a caring people. As part of that history, February is African-American History Month and an ideal time for attractions and destinations to showcase their roots to visitors and Tennesseans alike.

TNVacation.com, is the perfect gateway for travelers planning their African-American experience via the “information highway.” The African-American Guide to Tennessee features churches, shopping, festivals, museums and more. And our African-American Heritage Tour planner for group leaders provides a superb four day itinerary from Jonesborough to Memphis.

The African-American Guide to Tennessee features churches, shopping, festivals, museums and more.This year, the eyes of America will focus on National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis as we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. From Feb 7 through April 13, the Center will present 381 Days: Montgomery Bus Boycott Story. This Smithsonian traveling exhibit will display and bring to life the story behind the bus boycott that started in Montgomery, Alabama. Other February activities include storytelling, a film series and a concert.

Too Black Too Fast is the title of the art exhibit displayed in February at the Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville. Visitors will be reminded of the role of black jockeys as America’s first athletes. Belle Meade was a thoroughbred nursery famous for breeding and training championship race horses. Recent Kentucky Derby winners like Funny Cide and Barbarro, even racing legends like Secretariat and Seabiscuit can trace their bloodlines back to the breeding stock at Belle Meade.

The Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau provides an extensive list of Black History events in the city. www.tnvacation.com/events/3237/ Nearby, The Road to Emancipation is a guided tour of downtown Franklin, the McLemore House, and the grounds and out buildings of Carnton Plantation, giving visitors a glimpse into the African-American experience in Williamson County.

The Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center in Murfreesboro houses an exhibit on the history of Rutherford County in the 1800s, an exhibit on Rutherford County's African-American community including Bradley Academy and Holloway High School memorabilia, a Civil War and Colored Soldier exhibit, a restored heritage classroom, a modern auditorium, kitchen, meeting room, and office space.

Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, Ed.D stands among the
Clinton 12 statues, representing the 12
Black students who integrated Clinton High School

The Chattanooga African American Museum and Bessie Smith Hall showcases People Who Stood Through the Storm - This exhibition features script, photographs and newspaper clippings from the local and national Civil Rights Movement throughout the years. The highlight of the exhibition is a large scroll with the names of local people of multiple ages, races, creeds and colors who stood through the storm. Legendary jazz singer, Bessie Smith, began her career in Chattanooga. Today she is memorialized in a special museum that pays tribute to her life and career. The Hall features live jazz and blues performances by local and national artists and a library of musical and historical writings.

Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton tells the story of 12 high school students who were the first to desegregate a state-supported high school in the South. Clinton High School holds the honor of having the first African-American to graduate from a public high school in the South.

Many history-making events and major attractions rooted in African-American culture are all around us in Tennessee. These are just a few examples of the experiences that can be found throughout Tennessee…where the stage is set for you.

Sustainable Tourism: Town Hall Meetings Set

Great Smoky Mountains Stream

In preparation for Tennessee Tourism’s inaugural Sustainable Tourism Summit, a second round of Town Hall Forums will take place February 25-27 in the gateway communities of the Great Smoky Mountains. The purpose of the Town Hall Forums is to update the community on plans for the Summit and identify “sustainable projects” that will be further discussed at the event in April.

Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Dr. Van West, director of MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation and the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, as well as Beth Phillips, economic development specialist for the Institute for Public Service at The University of Tennessee will be listening to the community participants and sharing information at these meetings.

Please RSVP for the Town Hall Forums by Wednesday, February 20, to Patricia Gray, patricia.gray@state.tn.us or 615-741-9004.


Round 2: Town Hall Forums on Sustainable Tourism Schedule

Great Smoky Mountains

Pigeon Forge / Sevierville
Monday, February 25, 10AM - Noon
The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge
119 Christmas Tree Lane
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee 865-868-0525

Newport / Cosby
Monday, February 25, 2:30 - 4:30PM
Whisperwood Farms
166 Middle Creek Road
Cosby, Tennessee 423-487-4000

Tuesday, February 26, 10AM - Noon
W.L. Mills Conference Center
234 Historic Nature Trail
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 865-430-1052

Knoxville / Alcoa
Tuesday, February 26, 2:30 - 4:30PM
University of Tennessee Conference Center
Knoxville, Tennessee 865-974-0250

Maryville / Townsend
Wednesday, February 27, 10AM - Noon
Blount County Public Library
508 N. Cusick Street
Maryville, Tennessee 865-982-0981

Sustainable Tourism Summit

Flowers in the Great Smoky Mountains


Who is a part of this event…you!

Governor Phil Bredesen and Senator Lamar Alexander are among the distinguished speakers who will be participating in the inaugural Sustainable Tourism Summit, April 28-29 in Knoxville at the Knoxville Convention Center. Other confirmed speakers include Keith Bellows, editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler; Dr. Suzanne Cook, senior VP Travel Industry Association; Susan Whitaker, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development; and Lynn Minges, executive director of the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film & Sports Development.

The Summit is designed to provide the Great Smoky Mountains gateway communities and other interested communities in Tennessee and North Carolina with an opportunity to hear from leading experts in sustaining historic, cultural and environmental resources while also sustaining economic growth through tourism. Participants will learn the various types of state and federal programs designed to assist and incentivize sustainable tourism while providing them with the necessary tools to begin or expand specific plans for sustainable tourism projects. The Summit will feature a special presentation by the National Park’s two Preserve America communities, Blount County, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina that you will not want to miss!

Register online at www.tnvacation.com/sustainable for the Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit, April 28-29 at the Knoxville Convention Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. For more information on the Summit contact Lee Curtis, lee.curtis@state.tn.us or 615-741-9045; or Patricia Gray, patricia.gray@state.tn.us or 615-741-9004.

Tennessee Civil War Trails

Sample of the Interpretive Marker
for the Civil War Trails

Coming to a Town Near You!

Regional meetings will be held across the state to discuss the state’s Civil War Trails program, that was formally announced at the TACVB Blizzard II in January. There will be two meetings in each region – East, Middle and West – from Tuesday, February 12 through Thursday, February 14. The meetings are open to the public and a schedule is provided to help you find the location nearest you. Mitch Bowman, Executive Director of Civil War Trails, Inc., will join us for these meetings, adding to the excitement about this significant program.

The Tennessee Civil War Trails, a new statewide program made possible through a $537,420 federal enhancement matching grant was awarded to the Tourism department by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. This 80/20 federal match will allow for the interpretation of sites across the state, each with interpretive and trailblazer signage and mapguides. The Tennessee Civil War Trails will provide structure for travelers, communities, the state and preservationists, as it joins three states that currently have successful statewide trails – Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina and soon to be added, West Virginia.

The Civil War Trails program is administered by a non-profit corporation and supported by local communities, state tourism offices, and state departments of transportation. Without the federal grant, participation in the Civil War Trails program would cost almost $5,500 per site, so we are very grateful to Governor Bredesen for his support of this program. This one time $1,100 match for sites or communities wanting to be a part of the Tennessee Civil War Trails includes:

-Development, design, fabrication and installation of one four color interpretive historical marker

-Fabrication and installation of four (4) logo trailblazer signs located on TDOT right-of-ways.

-Inclusion of the Tennessee Civil War Trails statewide map-guides and map guides for distribution

-Each interpreted site will also be promoted on all materials distributed through the existing multi-state program and featured on the web site www.civilwartrails.org.

In addition, a $200 annual membership/maintenance fee is required through the program once signs are installed at the beginning of each fiscal year . This covers damage or repairs to signs and replacement as needed and replacement of the interpretive historical marker every 5 years.

To find out how your community can be a part of this unique and significant program, plan to attend the regional meeting in your area. The dates and times are listed below.

Greeneville – Tuesday, February 12, 9:00a - Capitol Theatre

Chattanooga – Tuesday, February 12, 3:00p - Tennessee Aquarium Auditorium

Murfreesboro – Wednesday, February 13, 9:00a - Heritage Center of Murfreesboro

Clarksville – Wednesday, February 13, 2:00p - Customs House Museum

Memphis – Thursday, February 14, 9:00a - Pink Palace Mansion Theatre

Parkers Crossroads – Thursday, February 14, 2:00p - Parkers Crossroads City Park Community Building

For more information on the TN Civil War Trails Program: contact Noell Rembert, Civil War Heritage Coordinator, at 615-532-8077 or noell.rembert@state.tn.us, or Lee Curtis, Director of Program Development, at 615-741-9045 or lee.curtis@state.tn.us.

Careers in Tourism

With more than 181,000 individuals working in the tourism industry state-wide, there is always an interest in this industry. The department's Education Initiative features a mini-Web site devoted to "Careers in Tourism." This site is full of important information about its Speaker's Bureau, colleges and universities that offer tourism courses and degrees and of course, careers. Visit the careers section of tnvacation.com. You will find a wealth of information that can be helpful to you.


Facts & Trends in Tourism

Youth sports are a major part of sports
activities in Tennessee

Branded Play Tennessee to promote Sports Tourism

Officials from destination marketing organizations from Collierville to Kingsport met in Nashville to develop an alliance for promoting Tennessee as a sports destination. While the state is one of amateur sports leading destinations, Tennessee is now poised to join the ranks of other states in developing a statewide organization. The alliance, Play Tennessee, will be a membership organization run by partner participation and supported by Tennessee Department of Tourist Development funding and assistance. The objective of this collaborative effort will be to garner the attention of event planners through branding efforts such as sponsorships, advertising and tradeshow attendance, and work as a team with regards to sales, all in an effort to obtain and maintain amateur, collegiate and professional sporting events in Tennessee.

Many of those attending envision this project as a stepping stone to success. Scott Smith, Vice President of the Greater Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee, summed the thought up with this statement. "A much needed first step into making this a reality."

Frank Lett, associate executive director of the Kingsport Convention & Visitors Bureau, added, “This will be the next venture for the State of Tennessee to form a statewide partnership initiative that will move us closer to #1 in tourism.”

Attracting sporting events to Tennessee can be economically lucrative. With the diverse sporting venues throughout the state, joining forces in trade shows and advertising will provide a unified message to those looking for a host city.

"I really believe that a cohesive group will help cities of all sizes reach a larger audience and attract more tournaments for our great State. We are looking forward to being involved and learning from our peers along the way", said Elizabeth Allen, Culture, Recreation & Tourism Director of Collierville.

The newly formed organization heard from a panel that included Mike Anderson of North Carolina, Joel Everts of Wisconsin and Mike Kusmuk of Pennsylvania. Each is currently involved in their state’s statewide sports marketing organization. They shared their perspectives on best practices used by their associations.

“It was so important, as this effort is formed, to bring in other states that have the experience in forming an initiative such as this,” said Jennifer Spence, assistant commissioner of marketing for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “We learned a great deal from this meeting and I’m excited about the success we can build on, simply by forming a team effort and promoting the Tennessee brand.”

For more information on how to become a part of Play Tennessee, please contact Derrick Smith at derrick.smith@state.tn.us or 615-741-9049.

Thanks to the aggressive use of technology, Tennessee tourism’s Web site continues to experience impressive success. Tnvacation.com saw 4,622,495 total visits in 2007, up over 1 million (30%) from 2006. Annual page views topped 38 million, an increase of more than 9 million over 2006. Tnvacation.com’s creative design helps brand our state as a cutting-edge tourism destination. It is comprehensive in delivering information about Tennessee, including featuring more than 3,000 tourism partner vendor pages. Web site expansions for 2007 included Group Sales, Careers in Tourism, German and Spanish translations, and an online version of the vacation guide.

Weekendsrus.com recently sponsored the TACVB Blizzard and informed partners of a great opportunity. Simply go to this new site, and sign-up for a password and you can input attractions, dining, and event information in your area...free of charge. The website generates their income by selling the lead opportunities to hotels and its a nice way to get additional content on the Internet for potential Tennessee visitors considering a weekend getaway.

If you have more questions, contact Ed Bowen at Ed@TheMagazineGuys.com.

A Tennessee WELCOME

Joyce Smiddy greets guests at
the Jellico Welcome Center

Jellico Welcome Center

Visitors traveling to Tennessee along the I-75 corridor will soon see a new site beside the interstate. A new log-cabin-style 5,000 square foot visitor's center is planned for construction at the present Jellico Welcome Center location. The new structure will be twice the size of the current 2,600 square foot building built in 1973.

According to Cleveland Salmon, project manager with the Department of Finance and Administration, the project will be a complete overhaul of the existing complex. "Along with the visitor's center, a new vending building, two storage buildings and four picnic shelters will be a part of the renovations taking place at the Tennessee Welcome Center," said Salmon. " There will also be a few more spaces for parking as well."

The design is being managed by Vaughn & Melton, a leading Southeast engineering and architectural services firm, located in Greeneville, Tennessee.

"We hope to move into a temporary facility in the next couple of months," said Barry Young, Director of Welcome Centers. "We are currently working on a lease for the site while the new Center is being constructed."

Allan Durham, Executive Administrative Assistant for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, says the projected completion date of the Jellico Welcome Center is April 2009. "Due to the high number of expected inclement weather days, we allow one year for completion of this project."

Industry Applause

Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry.

Agritourism Conference

During the recent Tennessee Agritourism Conference held at Paris Landing State Park, Vera Ann Myers, president of the Tennessee Agritourism Association presented Commissioner Susan Whitaker with an honorary membership to the Association. Through Commissioner Whitaker's leadership, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development has been a major conference sponsor each year dedicating funds, staff, time, and other resources to the success of the Tennessee Agritourism Conference. She has personally attended each conference and many other agritourism meetings. The Tennessee Agritourism Association's mission is to promote quality growth and development of agritourism in Tennessee through networking, marketing, and educating the public. The Association currently has more than 100 members. Because of Commissioner Whitaker's dedication to the promotion and development of agritourism, it is an honor to have her a part of the Tennessee Agritourism Association.

The Memphis Library System is honored at White House

First lady Laura Bush presented the National Medal of Museum and Library Service award to the Memphis Public Library and Information Center. The ceremony, held in the East Room of the White House, recognized 10 libraries and museums with this, the country's highest honor given libraries.

Penguins at the Tennessee Aquarium,

Earthcam names Tennessee Aquarium Webcam in Top 25

EarthCam named the Tennessee Aquarium’s Penguin cam one of the 25 most unique and compelling webcams of 2007.

Students volunteer in celebration of Dr. King’s life

More than 700 students and faculty from Southern Adventist University volunteered at organizations throughout the Chattanooga area in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The students and faculty volunteered at locations such as the American Red Cross, Children’s Home/Chambliss Shelter, Bridge Refugee Services and the Creative Discovery Museum.

Deer Run RV Resort Named Campground-of-the-Year

The Board of Directors of the Tennessee Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds has named Deer Run RV Resort in Crossville medium-size Tennessee Campground-of-the-Year. The campground was recognized for its accomplishments in campground operations, marketing, management, and industry unity.

Governor Presents The Hermitage $1 Million Grant

The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson, received a generous $1 million grant from Governor Phil Bredesen. The state grant will be used to restore the historic home, one of Tennessee’s tourism treasures.

Gallatin is awarded grant for farmers market

Gallatin has been awarded a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for $189,000 to build a bigger, better farmers market. Greater Gallatin, an organization trying to revitalize downtown, applied for the grant. The new farmers market will supplement the existing facility and include vending spaces, restrooms and a pavilion.

Southern Living Readers' Choice Awards

After tallying a landslide of more than 47,000 ballots, editors at Southern Living proclaimed winners in 15 categories. Tennessee attractions recognized by Southern Living readers are: Shopping: Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge; Scenic Highway: Natchez Trace Parkway; Mountain Destination: Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge.

Tennessee's slice of I-40 tapped as 'best road in the nation'

The Tennessee stretch of I-40 has been ranked as the best road in the nation for the second year in a row by Overdrive magazine. All of Tennessee's roads ranked third in the nation, putting them in the top five for the ninth year in a row. These rankings come from an annual poll of more than 700 truck drivers.

Neely's debuts Food Network Show

On February 2nd, Pat and Gina Neely debuted "Down Home with the Neelys" on the Food Network. The half-hour program shows the Neelys creating new dishes and informs viewers on how to create home versions of the Neely's restaurant standards such as barbecue spaghetti.

Rachel Baker and Marty Marbry
enjoy the TACVB Blizzard II

TACVB’s Blizzard II

Blizzard II, held at Fall Creek Falls State Park, was another great educational opportunity for the tourism industry. In addition to Commissioner Whitaker conducting a special luncheon session and Mitch Bowman leading a very informative seminar on the Civil War Trails Program, the Blizzard featured educational workshops and industry team-building activities. Seminars, from Web site overview to operating on a small budget, helped ensure that the two-day event was filled with substantive information and great presenters.

PRSA names Kevin Kane 'Communicator of the Year’

The Memphis chapter of the Public Relations Society of America named Kevin Kane Communicator of the Year. Kane was described by officials and friends as the city's No. 1 promoter. Kane has been head of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau since 1991.

Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You

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