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

Dear Colleagues,

This letter is full of reasons to celebrate! Summer travel is in full swing in Tennessee, and I am delighted to report that the strong growth trend we’ve been tracking since the beginning of the year has continued in all three grand regions.

As examples of this tremendous success, the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau recently reported attractions such as Beale Street, Graceland and the Memphis Zoo have seen attendance jump more than 26 percent this year.

Nashville’s CMA Festival saw record attendance, with all 50 states represented and travelers from 31 countries celebrating in Music City. Just down the road in Manchester, Bonnaroo was a sell-out with 80,000 fans attending.

Crowds totaling 625,000 enjoyed Chattanooga’s Riverbend Festival, and reports from the Great Smoky Mountains region indicate year-to-date visitation was up double digits with record crowds continuing to arrive.

All of this is great news for the tourism industry and local communities as millions of dollars in direct tourist expenditures and needed sales tax revenue are generated.

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is celebrating a major milestone with the launch of the final two Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways trails. On June 15, the Top Secret Trail was launched during the opening ceremonies of the Secret City Festival in Oak Ridge. The Cotton Junction Trail, the 16th and final trail, launched in Jackson on June 26th from the front porch of the newly restored historic Providence House at Casey Jones Village.

My personal thanks to Commissioner John Schroer for participating in both these and several earlier launch ceremonies. The partnership and commitment of the Department of Transportation continues to be a crucial part of the success of the development and implementation of this groundbreaking Trail initiative.

These 16 trails now cover 5,078 miles throughout all 95 counties of Tennessee, featuring thousands of points of interests both on and off the beaten path. I am grateful for the tremendous teamwork and can-do spirit that has resulted in the completion of the trail launches. We are looking forward to working with the local communities to grow and sustain the Trails over the coming years.

The day after the Cotton Junction launch, the Tennessee Tourism Committee appointed by Governor Bill Haslam held an open forum in Jackson. A large number of tourism partners participated in this important meeting and exchange of ideas on how to improve state tourism efforts in Tennessee. The Committee met following the forum to move forward on formulating recommendations to the Governor. A new website designed to inform the industry on the exciting progress and work of the Committee will soon be up and running.

If you haven’t made your plans yet, let me encourage you to consider two important conferences coming-up in August. SYTA (Student & Youth Travel Association) will be held in Nashville August 24-28. This is an opportunity to bring your tourism message to student and youth travel buyers from across the country. For more information, visit syta.org.

ESTO, U.S. Travel’s Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations, will take place August 26-28 in Boston. ESTO is the premier educational event for our industry, especially for destination marketers. It is a conference worth its weight in shared best practices, latest trends, business tools and techniques. In this highly competitive environment, continuing education makes good business sense. For details visit ustravel.org/events/esto

The Governor’s Conference on Tourism will take place September 19-21 in Sevierville. This annual event is a must-attend for tourism professionals. Read more about it in the accompanying feature article. Early bird discount registration deadline is July 31. For details go to tenntourismroundtable.com.

As I mentioned at the top of this letter, we have had much to celebrate with our tourism industry successes this year. But I’m sure you’ll agree that an even bigger reason to celebrate is the blessing of living in the greatest country in the world. Have a wonderful 4th of July. 

Susan Whitaker

Featured Articles:

Cotton Junction, Final Trail Launched in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways Program

The Tennessee Departments of Tourist Development and Transportation, in partnership with tourism organizations in nine counties in West Tennessee, Commissioner’s Schroer and Whitaker, along with County Mayor Jimmy Harris, Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist, and special guests unveil the Cotton Junction signCommissioner’s Schroer and Whitaker, along with County Mayor Jimmy Harris, Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist, and special guests unveil the Cotton Junction signlaunched the Cotton Junction Trail - Teapots to Sweet Spots. The trail is the 16th  and final self-guided driving trail to launch in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program. Cotton Junction features sites and attractions in Carroll, Crocket, Fayette, Gibson, Haywood, Madison, Shelby, Tipton and Weakley counties showcasing 320 miles of West Tennessee’s history, culture, music and cuisine. The Cotton Junction Trail originates in Memphis and heads east connecting the region’s farmland and natural beauty with classic small towns.

Steve Bowers, JEA TV/Media Manager, hosted the event. Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and Commissioner John Schroer, Tennessee Department of Transportation made special remarks. The event was held at the Providence House, a historic West Tennessee Antebellum home relocated to the Casey Jones Village and recently restored to its grandeur.

“The Cotton Junction Trail is designed to give our visitors an authentic Tennessee experience,” said Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Department of Tourist Development, “This trail takes travelers throughout West Tennessee’s historic cities and towns but also encourages them to stay longer and to visit the hidden gems along our beautiful back roads.”

The Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program showcases 16 regional trails throughout the state highlighting tourism attractions in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Trails include Old Tennessee Trail, Sunny Side Trail, Nashville’s Trace, Pie in the Sky Trail, Promised Land Trail, Great River Road Trail, Ring of Fire Trail, Rocky Top Trail, Screaming Eagle Trail, Tanasi Trail, The Jack Trail, Tennessee River Trail, Top Secret Trail, Walking Tall Trail, White Lightning Trail and Cotton Junction. More than 5,000 miles are covered through the trails program, with each trail having anywhere from 76 to 328 points of interest.

TDTD is gearing up for Phase 2 of the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways: the plan for sustainability. Our goal is to offer partners the tools and resources to sustain the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways initiative. Upcoming meetings will be held to discuss the needs as well as opportunities that will bring communities together through the common goal of promoting the area encompassed by each trail. By providing the partners with additional support, it ensures that the integrity of the initiative is withheld through clear brand standards and continues to provide the traveler with the most up-to-date information.

Top Secret Trail Launched at 10th Annual Secret City Festival

Tom Beehan, Mayor of Oak Ridge, Katy Brown, Executive Director, Oak Ridge CVB, Commissioner John Schroer, TDOT, Senator Randy McNally, Commissioner Susan Whitaker, TDTD, Representative Jon Ragan, Mayor Pro Tem, Jane Miller, Representative Ken YagerTom Beehan, Mayor of Oak Ridge, Katy Brown, Executive Director, Oak Ridge CVB, Commissioner John Schroer, TDOT, Senator Randy McNally, Commissioner Susan Whitaker, TDTD, Representative Jon Ragan, Mayor Pro Tem, Jane Miller, Representative Ken YagerThe 10th Annual Secret City Festival was the perfect setting to launch the Top Secret Trail.  The 15th of 16 self-guided driving tours in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program, the trail is made up of sites and attractions in Knox, Anderson, Campbell, Overton, Fentress, Morgan, Scott, Clay, Roane and Pickett counties.

Executive Director Katy Brown, Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted the event. Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and Commissioner John Schroer, Tennessee Department of Transportation, made special remarks.

“Oak Ridge was pleased to host the launch for the Top Secret Trail," said Katy Brown, executive director, Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Working with the Department of Tourist Development and our tourism partners in this region is always a recipe for success. We are confident that the Top Secret Trail will have a great economic impact in our communities.”

The Top Secret Trail allows travelers to explore through Middle and East Tennessee, touring fascinating towns, from the “Secret City” of Oak Ridge and its atomic mysteries to utopian towns such as Harriman, “the town that temperance built” and Rugby, one of the most authentically preserved historic villages in America.

Visitors can also celebrate Tennessee history makers by visiting Green McAdoo Cultural Center, the birthplace of desegregation, Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park, where you’ll find a replica of Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s log cabin. Sergeant Alvin C. York Historic Park, dedicated to one of the most decorated war heroes of World War I, is also featured on Top Secret.

Governor’s Conference on Tourism Registration Now Open

Plans are well under way for the 2012 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which will be held September 19 – 21 “Where Smoky Mountain Fun Begins” – beautiful Sevierville, Tennessee.  The Tennessee Tourism Roundtable, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and our hosts in Sevierville are all working hard to insure this year’s conference is the best ever!

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 $14.1 billion tourism industry grow and prosper.  And there will be time for fun, too – from the opening night event at the fabulous Wilderness at the Smokies Wild Water Dome indoor water park to free admission to Dollywood for conference attendees – great times are guaranteed!

 “We are delighted to be hosting the Governor’s Conference in Sevierville this year,” said Brenda McCroskey, CEO of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce 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!”

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

Detailed conference information and on-line registration can be found at the http://www.tenntourismroundtable.com  A special discounted early-bird registration rate is being offered through July 31.

Vacation Guide Ad Sales and Listings Collection Underway

Building on the momentum of the exciting new format introduced this year, the 2013 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide will once again feature large, captivating photography and powerful, experiential copy to showcase everything the state has to offer.

Published by our longtime partner, Miles, the new guide will include content highlighting Tennessee’s rich music legacy, the state’s great outdoor adventure, off-the-beaten-path travel excursions and delicious farm-to-table experiences. New elements on tap include promotion of the state’s seasonal travel sweepstakes, various ways to stay connected to Tennessee throughout the year and integration of a GPS-enabled online trails platform to complement our coverage of Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. And for the first time, the new 2013 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide also will be published as an interactive ipad app offering additional content and rich media for readers – and additional exposure for advertisers!

PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS! Advertising sales are now underway, so don’t miss this great chance to promote your destination in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s primary fulfillment piece. Contact your sales representative today for more information:

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

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

UPDATE YOUR INFORMATION! Each year, we also conduct an extensive data collection process to ensure we publish the most accurate business information possible in the Vacation Guide. Representatives from Miles will be reaching out to you in the coming weeks to update your information and arrange for your free listing in the 2013 guide. As always, you can also log in to our data extranet anytime to access and update your business partner profile page at www.tnvacation.com/vendor.


SYTA Conference in Nashville August 24-28

As a reminder, there is still an opportunity to participate in the Student Youth Travel Association this year, as the annual conference will be held August 24-28 in Nashville.

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, contact Amy Starnes at amy@visitmusiccity.com as soon as possible.  If you have not registered for SYTA, and wish to do so, go to www.syta.org.

Lastly, the TDTD will be updating its group sales profile sheet, specifically targeting the student market, so if you have student friendly updates within your organization or destination that you would like to be considered for inclusion, please email that information by July 16, 2012 to Bennjin at Bennjin.lao@tn.gov.

Entering the Mobile Frontier

By Nick Sigler

Senior Creative Producer, Paramore

As internet users become increasingly mobile, it's important to recognize what methods and technologies are available and how they can allow us to reach this rapidly growing demographic.

By now, most of us have come to realize that the sleek little device in our pocket is way more than just a phone. It can be a workflow enhancer, a social networking hub and a game console, just to name a few uses. Over the next three years, mobile internet users are expected to top their desktop counterparts and the average number of internet connected devices owned by each person in North America will rise to about six. Whether you're an entrepreneur, marketing professional, blogger or any other form of digital content publisher, you should be asking yourself: "What is the best way to deliver my content to, and engage with, an audience that wants to be informed, even when they aren't in front of a traditional desktop/laptop computer?"

There are currently three widely used outlets for reaching this mobile audience: mobile applications, separately built mobile websites and responsive web design. You might be saying, "Three options! That's neat, but one of them has to be better than the others, right?" Yes and no. Since mobile device technology is still in its pioneer phases, each method of providing content has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. While there really isn't one right answer for everyone, there's certainly a solution that suits your specific set of goals better than the others. Let's discuss.

Mobile Applications (apps)

The word "app" tends to dominate the conversation when discussing the delivery of mobile content. While it's likely that they do provide companies with a tech-savvy image, it's worth asking: "What is the true purpose of an app?" While they're used in all manner of ways, at their core, mobile applications should be tools. Whether they're directing, entertaining or calculating, each app has its own specific use.

What's great about mobile applications:

They're fast. When you download a mobile application, you're downloading a large chunk of information in advance, which won't need to be downloaded each time you use the app. This allows the user to move quickly through the app with a limited wait for page loads.

They work seamlessly with your phone's assorted gadgetry. While mobile browsers are making technological leaps and bounds, (Both Android and iPhone browsers now allow users to upload photos taken with smartphone cameras.) this is currently the only solution that allows a user to interact fully with the hardware native to their phone, so if you'd like to incorporate the camera, GPS, microphone or gyroscope into your project, then apps are really the best way to proceed.

Internet connectivity isn't necessarily required for use. If you're making something that doesn't have to show recently updated data, like a calculator, a game or an address book, it can be used in the middle of the woods somewhere far from a cell phone tower.

What's not so great about mobile applications:

They're expensive to develop. Creating a custom product that works across multiple platforms (iPhone, Android, etc.) is difficult and time consuming. In my experience, developers don't often do difficult, time-consuming things for free.

Approvals can be tough. There is sometimes an approval process before a product reaches the app store. This process can be lengthy and unpredictable.

Separately Built Mobile Websites

It's a common misconception to think that a mobile application is needed in order to accomplish a task or view information on a smart phone. If you don't need to take control of any of the built-in phone hardware (camera, GPS, etc.), a mobile-optimized website can actually be an incredibly useful tool. There are currently two ways to optimize a website for mobile use, and the first we'll address is a separately built mobile website. Let's say someone visits your website through the browser on a smartphone. If the website isn't mobile-optimized, this person has to do a lot of pinching, dragging and cursing to get to the information needed. The philosophy behind building a separate mobile site is that when your site detects a visitor with a mobile browser, it calls a mobile URL and displays a different, more mobile friendly, site than they'd see if they visited from their desktop.

What's great about separately built mobile websites:

They make a great band-aid. Separately built mobile websites are ideal for folks who need a mobile presence but don't have the funds to build an app or redesign their website to be fully responsive. When we redesigned the Paramore site last year, responsive design wasn't as heavily documented as it is now, so we built a separate mobile site to make sure our content was optimized for mobile viewing until the next redesign.

Separation has its advantages… sometimes. Not all experiences and functions translate well from desktop to mobile and vice-versa. In these cases, it's helpful to have separate builds.

What's not so great about separately built mobile websites:

Where's my content!? Many times content is removed from mobile sites in order to streamline usability. This often leads to frustration when users visit a mobile site looking for specific content, only to find that it has been omitted for reasons unknown.

Mo' URLs, Mo' problems. Due to the fact that a separately built mobile site requires a different URL from your standard site, problems can arise when sharing links. For example, let's say you're unknowingly browsing the mobile version of a site on your phone, and you share the link on Facebook / Twitter. Someone looking at your feed from their desktop clicks this link to see what all the fuss is about, and they're shown the tiny mobile design on their full sized monitor. Yuck.

It doesn't stop there. The separate URLs also divide visitor traffic. Depending on the amount of mobile traffic you receive, this can water down your SEO efforts.

Responsive Web Design (RWD)

Wouldn't it be neat if your standard and mobile websites could somehow be the same thing, without all the fuss over weird links, misplaced content, SEO problems and the like? That's actually possible through a process called responsive web design. Basically, responsive sites detect the size of the browser window (also known as the viewport), and then optimize the arrangement of the content to best fit into dimensions of the viewing device. You know how you can put silly putty on a piece of newspaper and then stretch or squish the resulting image to your heart's content? It's kind of like that.

What's great about responsive web design:

The layout always looks great. Using this technique, you can make a site that works nicely for both a user with a 70 inch smart television and a user with a 240 pixel wide cell phone, all within one set of design files. The mobile view will never accidentally display for desktop viewers and vice versa.

The URL structure is consistent. Whether mobile or desktop, the URL structure remains the same, relieving the pain points that can occur during link sharing.

What's not so great about responsive web design:

You'll need to start from scratch. Retrofitting an existing site to be responsive is not recommended. If you already have a site responsive web design may not be in your budget.

For the full blog post, including images and additional content, please visit http://paramore.is/think/entry/entering-the-mobile-frontier/.

Commissioner’s Schroer and Whitaker, along with County Mayor Jimmy Harris, Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist, and special guests unveil the Cotton Junction sign.

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