Tennessee Department of Tourist Development presents July 2011 Rythm & News for industry partners of Tennessee
Articles Industry Trends Calendar Noteworthy Tips
A Message from
Commissioner Susan Whitaker

Dear Colleagues,

Heralded by a giant mariachi band of cicadas, summer has finally arrived in Tennessee! Even better news, the cicadas have departed and Tennessee tourism is off to an incredible start.

With the CMA Music Festival, Bonnaroo and Chattanooga’s Riverbend Festival all happening in June, our state has kicked off its summer in style with almost a million music fans here for the party! In addition, Tennessee’s cities, towns and rural communities will host nearly 200 other events and festivals during the summer months. Each of these provides the perfect setting for our guests to experience the heart and soul of our state - our culture, history, food, music and wonderful people.  The musical talent per square foot in Tennessee simply boggles my mind!

Though tourism is a great deal of fun, we all know it is also big business for Tennessee and our nation. While the United States travel industry has not yet reached its pre-recession employment numbers, the U.S. Travel Association reported tourism jobs increased by 107,200 during the past year, which accounted for 12.3 percent of the 870,000 U.S. jobs added overall during the period. Even better news is that Tennessee’s leisure and hospitality industry saw positive increases in employment for the past nine months, with the sole exception of our unusually snowy January.

There’s additional good news to report, especially regarding tourism’s marketing and public relations initiatives. The 10 remaining trails of the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program have all been driven, explored, researched, GPS’d and driven again, thanks to the incredible work of our trail committees. The trails include Cotton Junction, Great River Road, Pie in the Sky, Promised Land, Ring of Fire, Rocky Top, Screaming Eagle, Tanasi, Tennessee River Trail and Top Secret. The trail launch dates and details are now being confirmed by all trail committees and are expected to be reported in next month’s e-newsletter.

Start making plans for this year’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism, set for Oct. 5-7 in Memphis. We’ll be taking Elvis’s lead and focusing on “Taking Care of Business,” adding to and sharpening our tools for business success. This will be a great time to enjoy that great Memphis mojo while networking, learning and sharing new ideas on how to grow our tourism economy. Read more about the conference in this month’s e-newsletter and be sure to register now to get the early bird discount.

The Governor’s Conference will also be an excellent time to let Gov. Bill Haslam know how much we appreciate his support of the tourism industry and our departmental budget. Just to emphasize how crucial it is to continue to let the Governor and our legislators know how important this industry is to the economic well-being of Tennessee, consider what has just happened in the state of Washington. Facing a $5 billion shortfall, their legislature just eliminated the entire Washington State Tourism Office, effective July 1.

Al White, the director of the Colorado tourism office, had this to say in a shared email to former Executive Director Marsha Massey, Washington’s highly respected former Executive Director: “There is probably no other director in any state that understands what is about to befall Washington tourism better than I…Unfortunately, if Washington stays on this course too long, the state will suffer a decline in market share that they may never fully recover from. In Colorado, we lost a full third of our market share in four years. We went from 2.7 percent of the national travel market in 1993 to 1.8 percent by 1997. This year, 18 years later, we are back to 2.6 percent, only a tenth of a percent from our former high water mark. [NOTE: The Colorado Legislature restored state funding in 2000]. It goes without saying that the loss of that market share has cost Colorado literally tens of billions of uncollected travel dollars and billions in uncollected state and local taxes.”

Many of us in the industry are familiar with this disastrous cautionary tale about Colorado and have made a point to consistently share the economic impact facts with our funding authorities, including our legislators. We are very fortunate to have a Governor and Legislature who understand the importance of tourism to Tennessee’s economy and job creation. It is up to us to continue to take that message to our new legislators as well as our community leaders. Once we have provided that information, they often become our greatest advocates.

Be sure to take time to read through this month’s e-newsletter. It’s full of information about tourism’s summer marketing initiatives as well as the upcoming schedule of our Web Assistance Summer Tour Seminars, which are off to great start and receiving rave reviews.

How fortunate we are to be part of the best industry in the best state, in the best country on Earth! Your passion and commitment for your work is truly amazing.

Summertime blessings to each of you,

Susan Whitaker

Featured Articles:

Governor’s Conference on Tourism to Highlight the Business of Tourism


Plans are well under way for the 2011 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which will be held Oct. 5 – 7 in the “Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll” – Memphis, Tenn.  The Tennessee Tourism Roundtable, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and our hosts in the City of Memphis are all working hard to ensure that this year’s conference is the best ever!

The theme for this year’s conference, based on the famous Elvis Presley motto, is “Taking Care of Business,” and that’s exactly what the Tennessee tourism industry will be doing.  Excellent keynote speakers, outstanding educational seminars, updates on the Department of Tourist Development’s activities and programs, as well as networking opportunities with other tourism professionals and tourism industry suppliers – all are being designed to help the state’s second largest industry grow and prosper.

“We are delighted to be hosting the Governor’s Conference in Memphis this year,” said Calvin Taylor, vice president of government relations for the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau and current Tennessee Tourism Roundtable chair.  “We’re going to be pulling out all the stops to showcase our city to our tourism friends from across the state.”

That sentiment was echoed by Commissioner Susan Whitaker. “Memphis takes us right to the heart of their city and our industry with the theme “Taking Care of Business,” said Commissioner Whitaker. “Memphis will without a doubt roll out the red carpet for our industry this year. This is a must-attend conference for tourism partners.”

The Governor’s Conference on Tourism is produced by the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable (TTR) in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

Detailed conference information and online registration is now available on the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable website.  A special discounted early-bird registration rate is being offered through Aug. 12.

Tourism’s Summer Marketing Initiatives

The momentum continues as new initiatives and plans take shape to promote tourism growth in Tennessee.

In the works is the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s “One Tank of Gas” summer promotion, which showcases Tennessee as an affordable destination, promoting travel throughout the state on just one tank of gas. The online advertising will run on TripAdvisor, Orbitz and iExplore, and will be geo-targeted within a 200-mile driving radius.

The department met recently with the Paramore Agency, White|Thompson and Designsensory to discuss the media plan for fiscal-year 2011/2012. The media plan presentation included a top-to-bottom assessment of current procedures, budget, and online and offline operations. This is part of an overall plan to create cohesion amongst the department’s agencies and streamline the state’s advertising, public relations, sales and social media efforts. A draft of the media plan is available online here:


And speaking of agencies, Designsensory was recently awarded the distinction of the Gold Award in the SEED Awards for its design of the department’s “Sunny Side of Summer” season site. Congratulations, Designsensory!

In other news, communities and organizations from the Smoky Mountains to Knoxville and Chattanooga are joining with National Geographic Maps to highlight the world-class natural and cultural attractions of the East Tennessee River Valley region for a national and international audience. The project seeks to contribute to the economic health of communities by promoting geo-tourism: tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place — its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents.

Residents of the region are asked to submit points of interest during the nomination period, which ends July 31. Nominations may include historical structures and archaeological sites, scenic landscapes and wildlife viewing areas, trails and outdoor recreation, local cuisine, events, and more.

Visit EastTNgeotourism.org for more information.


I-24 Welcome Center Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

A Welcomed Celebration on Interstate 24

Grand Reopening ceremonies of the Interstate 24 Hamilton County Welcome Center at Tiftonia were held June 24.  The new and modern 4,989 square foot cabin-style facility replaced the outdated center that was closed more than one year ago.  It is the “front porch” to visitors entering the state from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana via I-59 as well as those traveling from Nashville along I-24.

"This new Welcome Center sets the stage for our visitors to enjoy the perfect combination of Tennessee hospitality and helpful tourist information," said Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker.  Joining her for the ceremony was Transportation’s Assistant Commissioner Joe Carpenter along with elected state and local officials and others from the tourism community.

Greeting visitors to the center during the festivities were popular tourism icons, including “Maggie the Cow” from Mayfield Diary Farms, “Rocky” from Rock City, “Mac” the macaroni penguin from the Tennessee Aquarium and “Little Debbie” from McKee Foods Corporation in Collegedale.  Tourism representatives traveling from Chattanooga, all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains region, were also there to showcase their attractions.

Tennessee has 14 Welcome Centers primarily located along the interstate highway system. The centers are constructed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and operated by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

Web Assistance Tour Update


Fall Dates Added for Memphis, Greeneville and Union City; Monteagle session postponed.

The Web Assistance Tour is your chance to get hands-on assistance with the tnvacation.com Web site, T3 deals program, facebook, tnvacation mobile site & more!

Summer Schedule & Locations  

Wednesday, July 13,
Holiday Inn Express – Peavine Road

Thursday, July 14,
Fairfield Inn & Suites

New date to be announced
Monteagle City Hall

Wednesday, July 20,
Chattanooga Choo Choo - Roosevelt Room

Click here for more information on the summer tour.

Fall Tour Upcoming Locations

Wednesday, Sept. 21,
Comfort Inn

Union City
Date To Be Announced
Union City Library

Tuesday, October 4,

Note: For the Memphis session there will be assigned time slots. The available times will be posted in the tnvacation.com/industry section on July 8. The Memphis stop will be at the Marriott Downtown across from the Convention Center.

For all stops other than Memphis, email the date and location you will attend to training@tnvacation.com.

Newly Imagined Vacation Guide - A Great Opportunity to Advertise

Advertising sales are now under way for the 2012 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide, which will introduce a dynamic new format designed to inspire potential visitors like never before! Featuring larger images, a new style of photography, professionally written content and double the amount of space devoted to events, the guide is a one-stop trip-planning resource.

Once again published by Miles Media, this vacation guide is sent to hundreds of thousands of travelers who have already expressed an interest in visiting, making it an invaluable tool for promoting your own destinations and attractions.
Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to reach a highly qualified audience of travelers. Special co-op rates and premium ad placements are available. Contact your destination specialist below for more details, or view the new 2012 media kit in the “Advertising Opportunities” section here: http://www.tnvacation.com/industry/. Sales close on Sept. 9, 2011!

    Mary Steadman (Upper Cumberland and East Tennessee), (423) 956-4330, Mary.Steadman@MilesMedia.com

    Abbie Gristy (Middle and West Tennessee), (731) 298-1003, Abbie.Gristy@MilesMedia.com

Civil War Update

Parker’s Crossroads

As Tennessee marks the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, events are being held throughout the state in commemoration of the Sesquicentennial. A complete list is available at tncivilwar150.com. Below are some additional Tennessee Civil War highlights:

    The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission is pleased to announce the official Tennessee Civil War 150th Anniversary License Plate order deadline has been extended. For more information on the license plate or to place an order, visit tcwpa.org. No payment is required for the preorder. The annual fee is $35 for a regular plate; $70 for a personalized plate.

    The first of its kind and using GIS technology, a new interactive application on Tennessee Civil War sites is now available. Hundreds of Civil War battle and engagement sites can now be viewed through aerial photography, street maps, land use and property parcel. A complete historical background of all the units that served is also available and organized by county. Images and documents from the Tennessee State Library & Archives are linked to the site for further detailed information. All ages will be interested in the new site which can be found at tnmap.tn.gov/civilwar/.

    Congratulations to Franklin resident Julian Bibb, an attorney at Stites & Harbison PLLC, who has been awarded the Shelby Foote Preservation Legacy Award from the Civil War Trust for exceptional merit in Civil War battlefield preservation. Bibb becomes the second Tennessean to receive the award after historian and author, Robert Hicks.

“The work done by the Civil War Trust would simply not be possible without the efforts of men and women like Julian Bibb and his colleagues,” said Jim Lighthizer, Trust president. “They are often the unsung heroes of historic preservation, but I am confident that their work will be felt for generations to come.”


Facts & Trends


Tnvacation Facebook Fans Exceed 50,000!

Advertising to Facebook Fans Improve Conversion

Last month, the number of consumers who “like” the Tnvacation Facebook page exceeded 50,000 fans. Social media is one aspect of marketing not to be ignored!

According to information recently uncovered by the social advertising giant TBG and released in the blog, Inside Facebook, “By advertising to Facebook fans instead of non-fans, advertisers can reduce the acquisition cost of registrations by 44 percent, event signups by 33 percent and purchases by 15 percent.” 

The study suggests that companies who heavily invest in Facebook fan acquisition on the front-end will find favorable return in the above mentioned conversions when marketing to the fans with Facebook ads down the road.

Driving the Overnight Tourism Economy

America’s leisure “drive market” represents 85 percent of the 1 billion overnight trips taken by travelers in the country.  Mandala Research and Solutionz, in partnership with the Destination & Travel Foundation, recently released the results of Project 85 – The Drive Market.
Key results of the study released online at www.destinationmarketing.org  

97 percent of driving travelers obtained information online
63 percent planned their trip with assistance from destination websites
14 percent contact convention and visitor bureaus when planning a trip

Percentage of those surveyed who use social media in their lives:
Gen Y - 68 percent

Gen X – 61 percent

Baby Boomers – 41 percent

Silent Generation – 35 percent

Emerging trend: Younger generations are more likely to use social media to learn more about a destination:

Gen Y – 24 percent

Gen X – 18 percent

Baby Boomers – 7 percent

Silent Generation - 4 percent

Welcome Center

Marilyn Steadman

Employee of the Month

If you are traveling along I-81 and are looking for accommodations, make a stop in to the Sullivan County (Bristol) Welcome Center.  There you will find Marilyn Steadman, a Welcome Center Assistant, one of the best in the business in helping travelers locate a place to rest. For the fourth year in a row, Marilyn retains the title of "reservations champion" for making the most reservations last year.  She made 931 successful reservations from September 2009 to August 2010! 
For Marilyn's consistent efforts, she is our Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for June 2011.
"She is a dedicated employee who always goes beyond the call of duty to help our visitors," said Bristol Welcome Center Manager Jim Bibee.  "Marilyn is also very helpful to her co-workers and she has a great working relationship with her fellow employees as well as visitors.  When it comes to making reservations she is always ready to help our visitors find the best rate and the right fit for their stay in our state."
"Marilyn possesses the work ethic you wish all employees had," said Regional Manager Laura Munn.  "She takes that extra time to assist our travelers with her knowledge of the state to ensure they get the most out of their visit to Tennessee."
Marilyn began her employment with the Department in November 2006 and this is her second Employee of the Month selection.

Industry Applause

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

CMA Fans Break All Spending Records


Country music fans opened their wallets like there is no recession at the CMA Music Festival. Each of the four-night LP Field concert events saw a capacity attendance of 65,000 country music fans that left behind a record $30 million. Local hotels booked approximately 110,000 nights in hotel rooms, more than this event has ever experienced. The record numbers were seen across every economic indicator, including crowd size, ticket sales and festival growth, according to local data tracking firm Smith Travel Research.

Chattanooga Wins Online Vote

Chattanooga has won the online voting component of Outside magazine’s “Best Town Ever” contest for 2011.  Voting is now closed on the Facebook page and Chattanooga beat second-place Tucson, Ariz., by 1,509 votes. Chattanoogans have to wait until early September to learn if their city is the ultimate winner of the contest.

Hermitage Hotel Ranks No. 6 in Nation

U.S. News publication has named the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville No. 6 on its annual list of best hotels in the country. The list is comprised of 86 luxury hotels. U.S. News evaluated nearly 1,000 hotels across 49 major U.S. destinations, analyzing ratings and awards from travel experts as well as user ratings. The Hermitage Hotel is the only hotel in the Southeast to make the top 10 and remains the only Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Award winning hotel in the state of Tennessee.

Mirimichi and Timberlake Honored

 Music phenom and actor Justin Timberlake won one of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Environmental Stewardship Awards for building Mirimichi, the environmentally friendly golf course near Memphis. Timberlake was one of 14 winners of the 25th annual awards, which recognize exceptional voluntary actions that improve or protect the environment and natural resources with projects or initiatives not required by law.


Home of the Beatles and Elvis create a network of Rock ‘n’ Soul Mates

Dozens of venues in Liverpool and Memphis are set to become Rock ‘n’ Soul Mates in a transatlantic link up between the two cities. The joint public and private sector initiative aims to encourage tourists to explore the connections between the English and American cities whose music and history have helped to shape the world.

Gatlinburg receives 2011 Green Plus™ Chamber of the Year Award

The Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce has been selected as the winner of the 2011 Green Plus™ Chamber of the Year Award for Leadership in Member Sustainability for the “Gatlinburg Goes Green” program and other initiatives. The award was made at PNC Bank regional headquarters in Washington, D.C. by the Institute for Sustainable Development, Partners for Livable Communities and the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Wilderness at the Smokies Named One of ‘The South’s Best Pools’ by Southern Living Magazine


When Southern Living Magazine went in search of the “South’s Best Pools,” they included Wilderness at the Smokies resort. The top 10 list also showcases other world-renowned resorts such as Keswick Hall at Monticello in Virginia, Fontainebleau Miami Beach in Florida and Joule Hotel in Texas. Wilderness at the Smokies resort opened in 2009 and is the Southeast’s largest indoor/outdoor waterpark resort. With two outdoor waterparks and a six-acre indoor waterpark, Wilderness also has six restaurants, a deli, gift shops, convenience stores, mini-golf and a 36-hole championship golf course.

Knoxville’s Boomsday Named a 2011 Top 10 Summer Festival by Road Trips for Families

Road Trips for Families, an online travel magazine focusing on road trip travel, announced their top 10 picks for family-friendly summer festivals, and Knoxville’s Boomsday made the list. "Summer is always prime festival season, but we've never had so many submissions for the honor of our top 10," said Julie Henning, Feed Me editor at Road Trips for Families.

Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You

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