Tennessee spring has sprung in all its glory and it is just beautiful! From one end of the state to the other, signs of rebirth and renewal are everywhere - from the blooming wildflowers to the birds chirping to the warmer skies. Our traveling guests have begun to arrive and enjoy this beauty right along with us, reminding me that tourism is one of the few industries that provide the same enjoyment opportunities for its own citizens as it does for its visitors…all the while generating tax dollars for our schools and other important essential services.
Speaking of renewal, congratulations to the entire Tennessee tourism industry on holding its first “Tennessee Sampler” since 1999. A “slam dunk” success (I’ve still got March Madness on my mind – Go Lady Vols!), more than 80 tourism representatives and a dozen public relations professionals traveled down to Tampa to get the word out about our great variety of attractions and outdoor activities. I’ve heard many wonderful reports about the event, one that the Department will continue to support in the future.
Special thanks to Jennifer Spence, Assistant Commissioner of Marketing, the Department of Tourist Development staff and the industry steering committee for all the hard work that made this Sampler such a great sales and PR event. Let me also say a huge thank you to Jamie O’Neal, our Grammy-nominated entertainer, who wowed the crowds on Wednesday evening. She was spectacular and such a great example of the type of world-class entertainment awaiting our visitors when they arrive.
The three-day event was indeed a showcase of all things “Tennessee”, demonstrating our ability to ‘set the stage’ for a great vacation experience. I appreciate everyone’s support and enthusiasm for this newly re-launched Sampler.
In this newsletter issue, you will see other examples of corporate and individual successes in businesses in tourism as well as news about the CoverTN insurance program that is a great opportunity for small businesses in our industry.
Enjoy these gorgeous spring days as you continue to prepare for a great season! It’s a joy to work with each of you on this successful team.
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
The 2007 Tennessee Sampler is being praised as an event that “wowed” the Tampa, Florida (and surrounding region) travel industry, as well as the more than 90 Tennessee tourism partners in attendance.
“Wow is all I can say,” says Cheryl L. Goggan, AAA Club Services Supervisor. “You, your staff and vendors put on a fabulous training event…we are all still talking about it!”
Held March 27-29, the event included more than 275 sales calls throughout the region with a special emphasis on AAA Auto Club South, the fourth largest affiliate within the AAA federation. The Tennessee AAA outreach included visits to 70 branch offices that serve more than four million members as well as sales and media visits to the AAA Auto Club South headquarters.
The pinnacle of the Tennessee Sampler was the Wednesday evening event held at the Renaissance International Plaza Hotel. The event included a tradeshow of 44 Tennessee tourism booths and reception that featured a special performance by Jamie O’Neal. Grammy-nominated and Academy of Country Music winner O’Neal “wowed” the crowd with an hour of music and conversation, including performing her hit songs “When I Think About Heaven” and “There Is No Arizona.” Jamie also performed songs from her soon-to-be-released album, Brave, including the brand new single “God Don’t Make Mistakes.” Throughout her set, Jamie interspersed personal stories as well as sharing her love for Tennessee.
More than 200 guests, including travel agents, tour operators, Media representatives, and AAA employees enjoyed the first-class evening of food, music, and Tennessee product giveaways, including three featured TN vacation packages representing the three regions.
“I have had numerous people – AAA employees and members alike – tell me what a wonderful time they had at the March 28th Tennessee Sampler event,” said Ronna Clark, AAA Director, Branch Communications. “…I have to whole-heartedly agree with them. On behalf of AAA Auto Club South, thank you for bringing the Sampler to Tampa and sharing with us all the amazing things Tennessee has to offer…I’ve heard nothing but “WOW’S” from everyone who attended.”
The Tennessee Sampler also featured a media track for the public relations professionals in attendance. Highlights of the media blitz included interviews at WQYK-Radio and WFLA- Radio as well as a taped appearance by Jamie O’Neal for WFLA-TV’s Daytime. Travel writers representing National Geographic Traveler, Bon Appetit, Chicago Tribune and Miami Herald, to name a few, were hosted at special luncheons during the Sampler. Additional Media meetings included The Tampa Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Bay Magazine, Bassmaster Magazine and Gulf Coast Parent. More than 50 Media representatives were reached through the Tennessee Sampler.
Dates and location for the 2008 Tennessee Sampler will be announced at Governor’s Conference.
Partners Praise Tennessee Sampler
“WOW –what an event!! I can tell you from a small community like Johnson City in Northeast Tennessee, the Tennessee Sampler was well worth our investment of time and money. We were so pleased with our results and have already received two letters from the offices I visited.” Brenda Whitson, Executive Director, Johnson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Tennessee Sampler is a sales blitz, personal sales calls and an upscale client event all in a few days. It allowed Tennessee to have maximum impact with a minimum investment from each partner. It is also an awesome way to network and cross-promote your business with other partners in the state.” Wayne A. Chandler, CTP, Senior Sales Manager, Gaylord Attraction Sales
“Tennessee Sampler was a great opportunity to present the incredibly diverse range of Tennessee product to a focused region with a significant impact. The event also fostered great partnership between all regions of the state. I would certainly attend this well organized event in the future.” Deborah Cohen, National Sales Manager, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau
"The return of Tennessee Sampler was a definite success! It was a wonderful opportunity for partners throughout the state to join forces and cover a large area in just a few days. We presented a united front that is great for the entire state! The Tampa area definitely was reminded that the stage is set for EVERYONE in Tennessee! Can't wait for Sampler '08!" Shirley Davis Conner, Elvis Presley Enterprise, Inc.
Setting the Stage for National Tourism Week
The Travel Industry Association (TIA) has announced that activities for 2007 National Tourism Week will take place May 12-20. This year’s theme is “Tourism: America’s Front Door.” Today, stakeholders and partners all across Tennessee are setting the stage to champion the power of travel.
Each year, our welcome centers bring out an even larger welcome mat, encouraging travelers to get acquainted with the people of our communities, our regions and our attractions. Many area CVBs, chambers, and attractions have seen the value of traveling to our centers…showcasing the finest entertainment, heritage, and hospitality Tennessee has to offer.
During this nine-day period, representatives and mascots from communities and attractions greet travelers with fresh grilled hot dogs, cold beverages, desserts, brochures, coupons and a smile. One city will hijack the travelers, with their permission, and offer them a free night’s lodging. Multiple counties form partnerships and serve samples of honey and jams while displaying arts and crafts from their region.
Celebrate National Tourism Week with our Tennessee Welcome Centers by contacting the center near you.
TIA also offers free resources that will guide you in making the most of “Tourism: America’s Front Door.”
Celebrating Tennessee’s Natural Areas Week
Wildflower hikes, canoe rides and spelunking are just a few things people can do during Tennessee State Natural Areas Week 2007, held April 15, through 21. With miles of unspoiled natural areas, Tennessee is one of the most beautiful states in the country. There will be guided field trips to many of the natural locations during this special week. Details about these areas and other activities will be posted at www.state.tn.us/environment/na/. Most activities are limited and require pre-registration. Registration information is available on the web site.
New I-75 Welcome Center Opens with Great Fanfare
Following a year of on-going construction, the Tennessee Welcome Center along I-75 North in Chattanooga is now open for visitors.
Designed as a log cabin and featuring 4,976 square feet, the facility combines the warmth of Tennessee with the modern advantage of new construction. Included in the expansive lobby area is a gathering spot complete with a fireplace and rocking chairs. It’s the perfect area to browse the many Tennessee attraction brochures featured in the new ADA adherent brochure racks. In addition, the welcome center is the first in our state to feature a family assisted restroom and includes overall expanded restroom facilities.
"People are commenting on the new center all the time. They really enjoy the design of it," said Jan Elliott, Welcome Center Manager. "Also, we now have twice the parking area than before."
“The Chattanooga Center has been around since the early 1960's,” says Charles Webb, the Southeast Regional Manager. "When the original Center was built, it was so low that it couldn't be seen from the interstate. Now the welcome center can be seen as visitors drive into the state.”
According to Barry Young, Welcome Center Director for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, “This center represents the best of Tennessee’s warmth and hospitality. The building offers a sense of welcoming. Add to that the outreach of our dedicated staff, and our guests have a great start to the perfect Tennessee vacation experience.”
In other Welcome Center news, Sandy Lucas of the Clarksville Welcome Center was the Tennessee Welcome Center Employee of the Month for March. Ms. Lucas, a Welcome Center Assistant, has been with our department for seven years. A couple visiting from Iowa recently praised Sandy for the excellent customer service she provided to them when they stopped at the Clarksville Welcome Center: "Our accommodations in Nashville were out of this world! Sandy informed us about places to see and do in the Nashville area and went out of her way to make a hotel reservation for us. Had we not stopped at the welcome center in Clarksville, we would have blown right past Nashville. Thanks to her, we added another place to revisit again to really see what it has to offer." Please congratulate Sandy Lucas for a job well done.
Tennessee Tax Holiday Twice as Nice This Year
In 2007, the Tennessee Tax-Free Holidays will be twice as nice because consumers in Tennessee will be able to make tax-free purchases during two separate periods. The first special one-time, sales tax holiday will be April 27-29, 2007.
During the April 27-29 weekend, Tennessee consumers can purchase clothing and school supplies without paying sales tax as long as each individual item is priced under $100. Computers less than $1500 are also free of sales tax during the tax-free weekend, which will officially end, Sunday, April 29.
This would be a great time to visit Tennessee’s numerous shopping facilities such as Tanger Five Oaks Outlet Center in Pigeon Forge, Opry Mills in Nashville, the West Town Mall and/or the Knoxville Center in Knoxville, Hamilton Place in Chattanooga, or Wolfchase Galleria in Memphis and many others throughout the state.
Combine a Tennessee event with a shopping destination. Visit www.tnvacation.com for travel ideas. For more information about this tax-free holiday held April 27-29, visit www.tntaxholiday.com or call (800) 342-1003.
The tax savings in 2007 will definitely be twice as nice.
Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College Graduation
Congratulations to the Tennessee Southeast Tourism Society graduates. They include Rhonda Adams of Dickson County Chamber of Commerce, Candace Davis of Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Samara Hughes of North Star Destination Strategies, Tanya Irwin of Pickwick Challenge, Jennifer Wheatley of Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, and Barbara Wolke of Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Tennessee Vacation Guide Earns Two Addy Awards
Scott Templeton of Miles Media announced that two articles in the 2007 Tennessee Vacation Guide have received silver Addy awards. The articles are the Tennessee Nature Spread, on page 120 and the Tennessee Road Trip on page 16. Miles Media produced the Guide.
Travel South Showcase
Travel South Showcase was held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina March 10-14 with more than 700 delegates from all 12 Southern States in attendance. Tennessee was on board with 39 delegates representing 34 Tennessee Tourism attractions as well as representatives from the state tourism office.
Travel South Showcase facilitated appointments for the 445 delegates in attendance that totaled more than 30,000 meetings! In addition, Showcase was a first-class networking opportunity for PR representatives with 38 top editorial media participants from the U.S. and Canada.
Highlights of the Myrtle Beach experience included 12 fam tours, six city tours, a theatre night out and eight additional signature showcase events.
Governor Launches Cover Tennessee
Governor Phil Bredesen has introduced an important state health care initiative, Cover Tennessee, which is particularly relevant to many of our tourism partners. Cover Tennessee is a practical, down-to-earth health insurance plan that was developed to offer affordable, portable health coverage specifically targeted to small businesses and self-employed individuals who are uninsured.
Because the tourism industry is composed of many small businesses, Cover Tennessee is a great opportunity for these business owners to offer health benefits to employees. Governor Bredesen's multi-pronged effort is comprised of five components: CoverKids, AccessTN, CoverTN, Cover Rx, and ProjectDiabetes/Coordinated School Health. For more information on Cover Tennessee, go to www.covertn.gov or call 1-866-COVERTN.
Tennessee events earned eight picks in Southeast Tourism Society’s top list for Spring.
Dogwood Arts Festival/Knoxville/April 9-29,
Rivers & Spires Festival/Clarksville/April 19-21,
Beale Street Music Festival/Memphis/May 4-6,
Knoxville Opera Rossini Festival/Knoxville/May 4-6,
Franklin Rotary Rodeo/Franklin/May 17-19,
16th Annual Shannon Street Blues & Heritage Festival/Jackson/June 1-2,
Secret City Festival/Oak Ridge/June 15-16,
Liberty Festival-Celebrate America/Lawrenceburg/June 28-30.
Beale Street, Memphis
• Memphis ranks second as Weirdest Place in Tennessee according to Roadside America. With five entries Memphis is second only to Pigeon Forge with the most offbeat attractions.
• Hugh Morrow is the new president of Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. He fills the position of long time president John Thomas Steiner, Sr., “Jack” who passed away earlier this year.
• Alton Kelly has been named President/Executive Director at the Belle Meade Plantation. Kelly had served as the executive director of the Middle Tennessee Convention and Visitors Bureau based in Columbia during the past 15 years. Brenda Pierce, formerly Assistant Director, has been named Executive Director.
• Jackson has again won the selection as the host city for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division I Women's Basketball Championships for the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
• Maria Fisher is the new Director of Tourism at the Morristown Chamber of Commerce. She fills the position left by Chuck Davis who passed away in early 2006 after a brief illness.
• Wayne County Welcome Center will be a major destination stop for the 2007 Great American Race this summer.
Certified “Pro!” Congratulations Tina Tackett of Belle Meade Plantation and Frances Johnson of Circle Nashville for earning their Certified Travel Industry Specialist (CTIS) designation from the American Bus Association.
MeadowView Marriott in Kingsport received the Top Operations Excellence Award for the second time in three years. It is the first Marriott Hotel to ever accomplish this feat. Other awards given to Meadowview Marriott included the Problem Experienced Award, Food & Beverage Award, and Customer Service Excellence Award. Congratulations and thank you for your pursuit of excellence!
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You