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

Happy New Year!

As we start 2014, I want to look back on an incredible year for Tennessee tourism as well as look forward to what I know will be a remarkable year for our industry and department.

We have certainly enjoyed celebrating the $16.2 billion in economic impact and over $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue that U.S Travel released in their 2013 Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee report. That 5.2% increase was an increase of more than $1 billion over the prior year, indicative of a healthy, growing tourism industry gaining traction throughout the world.

To ensure that our numbers will continue to grow, we pay close attention to various “intent to travel” indicators in our marketing metrics. In December, we received terrific news about tnvacation.com, which is our major indicator for “intent to travel” to Tennessee. In 2013, our website traffic increased 19.5 percent compared to 2012. That’s a jump of more than one million visitors from 5.29 million to 6.32 million in one year! And when we compared our tnvacation.com visitors for the past two years, we have seen an increase of 34.4 percent from 2011’s 4.7 million web visitors.

This is great news because these statistics represent millions of people from around the globe who have been directed to our website through search, advertising, media stories and social media sites, who are interested in visiting Tennessee and are now doing their “travel homework,” planning future visits to our state.

It’s so good to know that millions are coming to our Tennessee travel websites, and it’s also important to have excellent websites awaiting them when they get there. For that reason, we were particularly excited to hear that our recent seasonal site on tnvacation.com, Fall in Tennessee, was named one of the 20 Best Designed Tourism Websites in the World!

Others on the list from Skift, a global travel intelligence company that had reviewed the world’s most visited travel websites, included 13 international sites such as Iceland, Ireland, and Belize, and six domestic sites, including Florida, L.A., Oregon and Washington, D.C. Click here to take a look at the other honorees. We’re in great company!

This month, we will be launching the new tnvacation.com with responsive design, which provides the best visitor viewing experience across a range of devices from mobile to tablets to desktops. You’ll find new content, features, videos, enhanced partner pages and more. As we all know, innovation can never stop – our department’s marketing team and website partner, Designsensory, has done an outstanding job in moving us to the top. Congratulations on a job well done!

We’re off to a fast start in the first few days of the year with the release of our 2014 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide featuring our multi-talented fellow Tennessean, Justin Timberlake, on the cover as we celebrate 60 years of rock-n-roll. The launch of the Vacation Guide includes 550,000 printed copies, an e-guide available on tnvacation.com and an iPad app that will be launched in the coming weeks. 

The vacation guide gets better every year, and I’m proud of the results created by our TDTD team and Miles Media for 2014.

With the tremendous work of the Tourism Committee in creating a strong central vision, brand and strategic plan for Tennessee tourism, 2014 promises to be an incredibly successful year for us.

My heartfelt thanks to Governor Haslam for his belief in our industry as an economic driver and an unprecedented budget increase of $8 million in new marketing dollars.  I would also like to thank each member of the General Assembly for their support of this budget increase; it will enable us to grow both domestic and international marketing results. Without their support, tourism in Tennessee would not be experiencing such success.

These are just the highlights – there is so much to be thankful for and excited about for 2014. Here’s to surpassing the success of 2013 and making 2014 the best ever for both our industry and our visitors!

Susan Whitaker

Featured Articles:

Dynamic Image of Justin Timberlake on 2014 Tennessee Vacation Guide

Tennessee Department of Tourist Development has released the 2014 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide in print and online as an e-guide. Both versions of the FREE guide are available by visiting tnvacation.com

Music lives in Tennessee – and that message comes through loud and clear in the new 2014 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide. A striking cover shows native Tennessean and international superstar Justin Timberlake paying homage to Tennessee’s musical roots, while callouts highlight some of the state’s top music destinations.

“We’re thrilled to showcase Justin Timberlake on the cover of our 2014 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of rock n’ roll and all that Tennessee offers as the global music destination of choice.” said Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

Inside the guide, some of the music industry’s top celebrities, including Dolly Parton and Sheryl Crow, share their favorite Tennessee experiences throughout a dynamic photo essay highlighting several facets of the state’s travel industry. A series of features also showcases Tennessee music, food, spirits, outdoors, festivals and the diverse network of Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways, including can’t-miss stops along each one. A special double-page spread highlights Union City’s brand new $100 million attraction, Discovery Park of America.

Add to that a list of annual events, regional overviews and best bets, maps, attraction  listings and more, and potential visitors have everything they need to plan the perfect Tennessee vacation.

Like last year, a new iPad app of the guide will be available soon in iTunes offering additional rich media and interactive content, as well as links to all advertisers.

More than 550,000 guides are available free at the state’s 14 Welcome Centers and to tourists requesting the publication via tnvacation.com and 1.800.GO2.TENN. It is also available as an e-guide at tnvacation.com. The guide is Tennessee’s primary vacation planning and marketing publication for domestic and international tradeshows.   

Chattanooga Hosts Blizzard VIII Feb. 6-7, 2014

We hope you won’t miss the dynamic programs and a chance to network with your tourism friends at the eighth annual TACVB BLIZZARD, coming Feb. 6-7, 2014!  Registration is now open [click here] and the hotel is ready to reserve your room NOW at the special $99 rate. Offer expires Jan. 9 [click here].  TACVB’s award-winning conference, featuring topics designed specifically for tourism professionals in Tennessee, will be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center in Chattanooga (Hamilton Place).

Michael Jacobson, U.S. Travel Association, will share local and federal initiatives, and explore how we can all get more involved.  We’ll welcome back some old friends as well, including Dr. Steve Morse and Neville Bhada.  TACVB is fortunate to have the support and participation from Commissioner Susan Whitaker and her staff.

TACVB affiliate members will be there to introduce their products and services, as well as offer tips for better business outcomes.  Along with our presenting sponsor, MILES, we look forward to seeing you in February. For more information, contact Sheila Leggett, 615-254-1233 or sheila@associationpartners.com.

Mark Your Calendar for the 2014 Tennessee Sampler March 4-7

PR Team and NTA editorial staff met during 2013 Sampler ExpressPR Team and NTA editorial staff met during 2013 Sampler ExpressThe Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is excited to hit the road again for 2014’s TENNESSEE SAMPLER  March 4-7! The Tennessee Sampler/Sampler Express is a grassroots and economical approach that takes teams on the road along different routes, conducting sales and PR calls to AAA offices, tour operators and media representatives. 

The Department is looking to get your feedback on plans for the 2014 Sampler. Please look for a survey to come VERY SOON to your email inbox, and respond as soon as possible so Sampler details can be confirmed and plans can get underway.  If you are interested in participating in Sampler but do not receive the email, contact Bennjin Lao at Bennjin.Lao@tn.gov.   

Look for more details about the Tennessee Sampler in the February Rhythm & News and detailed letters in your inbox in the next few weeks. We look forward to your involvement in this important series of annual sales and public relations missions.

Marketing Update


A special TDTD marketing eNewsletter will be distributed this week featuring detailed updates on several new and exciting tourism marketing initiatives. Watch your inbox for this important email

Tennessee Tourism Announces What's New for 2014

With the holidays all wrapped up, it’s time to look to the horizon for what the upcoming year has in store for Tennessee. World-class attractions, non-stop amusement, and yearlong celebrations will have Tennessee abuzz throughout 2014.

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a 24,000-square-foot facility, will house the Birthplace of Country Music operations including the museum, educational programs, and artistic programming in downtown Bristol. It is expected this major tourist destination in Northeast Tennessee will attract approximately 75,000 visitors per year with a direct annual economic impact of over $5 million. The museum is scheduled to open in August 2014.

The 140,000-square-foot Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville will complete a $75 million, 220,000-square-foot expansion, more than doubling its size. Currently home to the largest collection of country music artifacts in the world, the museum expansion will open spring 2014.

West Tennessee kicks off the 60th Anniversary of Rock n’ Roll with yearlong commemorative events like Graceland’s celebration of Elvis’ birthday and a global celebration July 5 at Sun Studio.

The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event continues in 2014. Themed, "The Final Shots in Tennessee," the event will be held Nov. 13-14 in Franklin.

The 2014 keynote speaker will be famous British Civil War Scholar Amanda Foreman, author of the prize-winning book, “Georgianna: Duchess of Devonshire” and “World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War.” For more information, visit www.tncivilwar150.com.

Below is a listing of what’s new for 2014 in Tennessee tourism. For more information, visit www.tnvacation.com/press.


FireCatcher Express, a family friendly rollercoaster that launches both forwards and backwards, is the new major attraction for the 2014 season at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, which opens March.

The Titanic Museum Attraction will feature an entire gallery dedicated to one of Titanic's most popular, colorful passengers, Margaret "Unsinkable Molly" Brown, including personal possessions that belonged to her.

Rocky Top Sports World, the country's newest sports tournament destination facility will open May 2014 in Gatlinburg as the best-in-class indoor/outdoor sports complex in the U.S. with seven outdoor turf fields and 10 hardwood basketball courts, six of which will be in an indoor court facility.  

Blackberry Farm in Walland will add a wellness and spa facility set to open June 2014. A new cheese maker has been hired and will launch three new cheeses in the coming months.

The new Tennessean Hotel will open next to the Knoxville Convention Center.

The Chattanooga Whiskey Company opens the Tennessee Stillhouse Distillery located in Downtown Chattanooga in Fall 2014. The distillery will include a tasting room, barreling operation, bottle shop and a 2,000-gallon whiskey still. The current structure will be updated with antique factory-style windows like the distilleries before Prohibition.

The High Point Climbing Center in Chattanooga opened in December 2013, consisting of 25,000 square feet with an auto belay area; multiple bouldering rooms; sport climbing; top roping and a speed-climbing wall; and an exterior public art piece, also a climbing wall that allows climbers to go outside the building and climb over 600 ft. up. 


The American Classic Rodeo will become an annual event at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills.

“Visit Clarksville,” a new, user-friendly mobile app complete with full restaurant, shopping and hotel listings, GPS mapping and rotating special event information has been launched. 

Historic Variety Record Lounge reopens in Columbia under new owners who are bringing vinyl back to a new generation. Described as a “listening lounge,” the site also will sell vintage furniture, turntables and accessories.

Castle Heights Museum will open in the 101-year-old Castle Heights Library on the Castle Heights Military Academy campus in Lebanon.

In preparation for hosting motorcycle rallies in 2014 and 2015, a new series of bike trails have been created in Cookeville and the Upper Cumberland region entitled, “Carve the Cumberlands on the Tennessee Twelve,” where 12 “righteous rides await you”! 

The 2013 Southern Living Idea House at The Mansion at Fontanel is re-opening February 2014 as The Inn at Fontanel, a boutique, “micro-hotel.” Prichard’s Distillery will open their second distillery location at Fontanel complete with tours, gift shop and a package store.

Slaves and Slaveholders of Wessyngton Plantation,” a groundbreaking exhibit about the slaves and slaveholders who worked and resided at the distinctive plantation, will run Feb. 11-Aug. 31, 2014 at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.


After a $27 million renovation, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel will reopen its main exhibition with state-of-the-art upgrades and electronic enhancements. The Lorraine Motel is famously known as the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Beale Street Landing, the complex at the junction of Beale Street and the Mississippi River in Memphis, is scheduled for completion in spring 2014 and will combine a riverboat dock, interior space, playground and green space.

The Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World will open late 2014 located in the former Pyramid arena of Downtown Memphis and will feature 200,000 square-feet of retail space, 50 to 60 log cabin-style hotel rooms, a restaurant, bowling alley, observation deck and zip lining.

Southern Fried and Sweet Tea Festival is now an annual event held August 2014 in McKenzie.

Carroll County Thousand Acre Recreation Lake, located on Hwy. 22 near McKenzie and Huntingdon, is home to fishing, water enthusiasts, boating, beaches, and picnicking and will open in 2014.

Discovery Park of America, a 50-acre entertainment and cultural complex, is now open in Union City. It offers visitors a world-class educational experience focusing on nature, science, technology, history, and art, including a 60-foot replica of a human body with a 30-foot slide. 

“And The GRAMMY Goes To Memphis,” a new exhibit featuring 19 golden gramophone statuettes from local GRAMMY winners, commemorates the 40th anniversary of The Recording Academy Memphis Chapter now through Oct. 31, 2014 at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

Nashville Hosts ABA Marketplace

Travel South International at Rock n SoulTravel South International at Rock n SoulJanuary is a busy month for the Department, as the city of Nashville, and the state of Tennessee will be hosting the annual American Bus Association Marketplace.  More than 3,000 tour operator and supplier delegates have registered to attend ABA, and Nashville will be hosting it for a record 6th time.

Not only will the Department be participating by taking two sets of pre-scheduled appointments with operators, but the state’s partners will be helping to host three pre-FAM and three post-FAM tours for 97 tour operator delegates, giving Tennessee the privileged opportunity to showcase the best that our cities have to offer in group and leisure product. 

Cities participating in the FAM tours include Franklin, Clarksville, Sumner County, Chattanooga, Memphis, Knoxville, Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg.  In addition, the Department and the Tennessee delegation of suppliers will be hosting tour operator clients at the annual dine-around evening reception and dinner on Jan. 14, at the Loveless Café’s Loveless Barn, inclusive of live entertainment and guaranteed to be a good time for all.  If you have registered for ABA late, and are not aware of the event, please contact Bennjin Lao at Bennjin.Lao@tn.gov, for more details. 

After ABA, the Department will be involved as a sponsor of the annual International Tour Management Institute Symposium to be held in Nashville at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel, from Jan. 26 – 30, 2014.  Tour operators and tour guides/escorts from across the country will be on hand to learn about tour offerings and options, and Tennessee will be primed for another opportunity to impress.  If you would like more information about the ITMI Symposium, please contact Bennjin Lao at Bennjin.Lao@tn.gov

While ITMI takes place in Nashville, East Tennessee will play host to the annual Tennessee Motorcoach Association Convention & Marketplace, from Jan. 27 – 29, 2014, in Pigeon Forge. Thirty motorcoach operator members representing more than 600 coaches in the state of Tennessee and 18 affiliated operators from states other than Tennessee participate in TMAC  and take appointments with the suppliers in attendance.  The convention also features scheduled networking events, meetings, and specially designed training and seminars to stay on the leading edge of today’s ever changing industry. 

TDTD to Participate in ITMI Symposium in Nashville

The International Tour Management Institute will hold its annual symposium in Nashville, Tennessee, Jan. 26– 30, 2014.

For 27 years, the ITMI Symposium has attracted industry professionals from around the world. It is the only travel industry conference that brings together domestic and international tour operators, tour directors and guides, event planners, destination marketing organizations, travel writers and other industry stakeholders for interactive seminars and networking.

 “We are excited to showcase the unique attractions and breathtakingly beautiful natural wonders that Tennessee has to offer,” states Ted Bravos, CEO of ITMI. “Tourism professionals from around the world will be learning about attractions and points of interest as well as hotels and restaurants that can be added to tour itineraries. The connections that are made during the symposium will positively impact Nashville and the State of Tennessee for years to come.”

“It is wonderful to welcome ITMI to Nashville this year,” said Assistant Commissioner Paula Hankins, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “Tourism is one of the most important industries in our state, which makes us always ready to roll out Tennessee’s special brand of hospitality to the travel and trade industry.”

 The ITMI Symposium attracts leading tour operators such as World Strides, Smithsonian Student Travel, Destination America, Adventures by Disney, Tauck World Discovery, Globus Family of Brands, Cosmos, Collette Vacations, Princess and Holland America Cruise lines to name but a few. Group Tour Media’s editorial team will also be covering the event and delivering follow-up articles in its family of print and online publications.

About ITMI:

Since 1976, ITMI has been America’s premier training and certification program for professional tour directors, guides and travel staff. For more information about ITMI or the Symposium, contact Annemarie Osborne Annemarie.Osborne@gmail.com (800) 442-4864 (415) 957-9489 or visit www.itmisf.com.

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The Magic of Positive Persuasion

By Evette White, Sullivan Branding

We love harnessing persuasion to help clients connect with their target audience in a meaningful, mutually beneficial, positive and engaging way. Reaching the right people with the right message at the right time.

There are many strategies and tools deployed to achieve that, all of which are most successful when appealing to certain deeply rooted human responses. Robert Cialdini and others have identified six of those responses, The Six Principles of Persuasion, which I believe translates well to a brand’s connection and persuasiveness:

1. Liking: If people like your brand – because they sense that your brand ‘likes’ them, or because of things they have in common with your brand – they’re more apt to say yes to that brand.

2. Reciprocity: People tend to return favors. If your brand helps people, they’ll help your brand. If your brand behaves in a certain way (cooperatively, for example), they’ll respond in kind.

3. Social proof: People will do things they see other people doing – especially if those people seem similar to them. Carefully choosing who represents your brand can achieve that.

4. Commitment and consistency: People want to be consistent, or at least appear to be. If they make a public, voluntary commitment, they’ll try to follow through. When they choose your brand they’re, in essence, making a commitment to your brand, and if your brand doesn’t let them down, they’ll repeat that choice and become committed.

5. Authority: People defer to experts and to those in positions of authority (and typically underestimate their tendency to do so). When your brand is in a position of authority, expert in your category, people gravitate to you.

6. Scarcity: People value things more if they perceive them to be scarce. Exclusive, customized, limited edition versions of your brand or product can be a brand introduction strategy whether in the initial brand launch or when entering a new market or market segment.

When brands genuinely help people out, a connection is made when that person is grateful for that positive influence. Provide value first…make a difference in the community, provide helpful information before your target chooses you, and your brand’s persuasiveness increases. If there is uncertainty around your brand, people freeze. You may have gotten their attention, they may even be interested, but if they’re not sure, they may be scared of what they might lose by choosing your brand. If you can present your brand specifically to the people who will truly benefit, in a way that builds trust and confidence, they see more clearly what they’ll lose if they don’t choose your brand. And that is the positive side of persuasion.

How does your brand relate to these six principles?

Superstar and native Tennessean Justin Timberlake graces the 2014 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide cover.

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