Dear Industry Partners,
The new fiscal year has begun and, with it, increasingly complex challenges for all tourism destinations to successfully market their attractions. The good news is Tennessee is strongly positioned as having both world-class beauty and entertainment that is affordable and not too far from home. The challenge for all of us, whether in state government, large cities or small towns, is to stay on top of all the latest in tourism trends, research, marketing strategies and tools in order to create optimum success in our industry.
For this reason, the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable has worked diligently to put together an extremely informative 2008 Governor’s Conference on Tourism. I strongly recommend that you take advantage of this opportunity to hear national and state experts present what you need to know to succeed in this rapidly changing economic environment. More information about the Conference, scheduled for September 24-26 in Gatlinburg, can be found in this newsletter and online at www.tenntourismroundtable.com. This will be time well-spent for your tourism business.
:pullquote:The 2008 summer travel season will be known as the year the term “staycation” entered the tourism lexicon. Tennesseans, feeling the effects of the national economic downturn, have chosen this year to enjoy the many economical and entertaining destinations across our own beautiful state. The truth is Tennesseans have been experiencing “staycations” as long as they’ve been taking vacations. According to Travel Industry of America, almost 40 percent of travelers to Tennessee are Tennesseans. We know a good thing when we see one!
In July, Cool Springs Galleria in Williamson County capitalized on this trend, hosting a successful “Staycation Expo”, featuring tourism representatives from across the entire state. People visiting the Expo were reminded that Tennessee is the perfect spot to experience a premier vacation. The response by the participants and public was so positive that another Expo is planned Spring 2009. During National Tourism Week in May a similar event was held at Opry Mills in Nashville sponsored by the Nashville Attractions Association.
Tourism is an important and strong industry in Tennessee - just ask the more than 60 energized students who recently finished the eight-week Memphis Tourism & Hospitality Summer Institute. In its second year, the program is sponsored by the Memphis Tourism Education Foundation, the educational arm of the Memphis CVB. Students were introduced to the various sectors of the tourism industry as well as many tourism professionals. Dr. Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, assistant commissioner of community and industry relations, served as professor for a week and taught sessions ranging from communication skills to culinary dining categories, while encouraging these future leaders to choose tourism as a career.
Thank you for all you do to make Tennessee tourism such an important part of this state’s economic success and future growth. I look forward to seeing you in Gatlinburg next month!
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
2008 Governor’s Conference on Tourism
Governor’s Conference Educational Seminars Will Take Participants to “Higher Ground!”
Each year, the Governor’s Conference on Tourism offers timely, practical and high-impact educational seminars designed to help the state’s travel industry stay on the cutting edge of tourism trends, marketing and ideas. This year’s conference, which will be held September 24-26 in Gatlinburg, is no exception!
:pullquote:The conference’s educational offerings begin on Wednesday, September 24 with the return of the very popular Tourism Marketing Super Seminar. Leading the Super Seminar this year are Bill and Fran Lytle, co-founders and principals of Brand Champs, who will be presenting “Brand & Destination DNA.” During this interactive three-hour workshop (2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.) participants will learn how to define their brand or destination in a way that builds strong, long-lasting relationships with consumers and visitors. Bill and Fran will deliver actionable insights in a fun, approachable style chock-full of meaningful and relevant examples. Through fun and challenging exercises, attendees will increase their skill set in creating a compelling story that motivates visitation. (To get the most from this interactive workshop, participants are encouraged to bring their marketing materials.)
Educational programming will continue throughout the day on Thursday, September 25. Included in this year’s educational seminars are:
“She’s Got The Power!” - a presentation of the Meredith Women’s Travel Study, which looks at the implications and the trends that account for women’s $125 billion impact on the travel industry.
“Successful Public Relations Strategies” - Members of the travel media and PR pros will dig deep into what makes travel media relationships work to bring about the best results and media placements. Cut through the clutter as you learn from the best about sharpening your pitching skills, broadening your exposure, and expanding your contacts.
“Sustainable Tourism: First Steps” - Following up on the highly successful Sustainable Tourism Summit in April of 2008, this seminar will look at how destinations and tourism-related businesses can begin the process of “going green” with small and easy steps that are both good for the environment and good for business
“Creating A New Community Vision for Tourism” - In this “how to” seminar, panel members will present as a case study the process by which a comprehensive tourism study project undertaken in one Tennessee county resulted in a new vision for tourism in the community, a unified tourism industry, a new organizational structure for the CVB and a three-fold increase in the tourism budget.
“Multi-Cultural Tourism: The Growing Impact of African-American Travel” - According to the Travel Industry of America (TIA), the African-American segment of the U.S. population represents one of the fastest growing markets in the travel industry. This seminar will look at how Tennessee destinations and tourism-related businesses can attract their share of the $40 billion plus African-American group, leisure travel, incentives and meetings market.
“Internet Advertising” - Internet opportunities are available in many forms to help organizations build their brand. Listen to top professionals from Trip Advisor, Paramore Redd and other Web companies provide information to help you better utilize your marketing dollars.
All educational programming, including the Tourism Marketing Super Seminar, is included in the Governor’s Conference registration. For more information on and to register for the conference, go to the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable Web site at www.tenntourismroundtable.com.
Discovery Park of America – $100 million West Tennessee Development
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in Union City in July for the construction of Discovery Park of America, a $100 million museum and gardens dedicated to the theme “A Celebration of Life…Past, Present and Future.”
The state-of-the-art museum, located on a 50-acre development site, will showcase the culture, spirit and accomplishments of the human race. The center will also focus on West Tennessee’s regional history, including the natural creation of Reelfoot Lake and an aquarium featuring indigenous fish. Also envisioned are displays of alternative energy sources with interactive models and exhibits, national history, transportation history, Native American artifacts, science, space and industry, an art gallery as well as displays of wildlife and military hardware.
:pullquote:Just as rewarding as the visitor’s experience on the inside, is the intrigue of the museum’s innovative design on the outside. Created by internationally recognized Canadian architect, Douglas Cardinal, a 15 story glass observation tower is expected to attract visitors for miles. Developers will be working toward a partnership with local, state and national governments to add a conference and convention center as well as a full-service visitor’s center. The Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation is financing the construction of Discovery Park’s centerpiece museum and is underwriting world-class acquisitions and helping provide ongoing support for the program to the tune of multiple millions of dollars.
Part of the museum’s marketing plan centers around its prime location and its innovative design. Discovery Park will be located along interstate I-69, which is scheduled to open in a few years. When completed, I-69 will connect the heartland of America with the country’s northern and southern borders.
Upon completion in 2010, developers of Discovery Park of America anticipate a major influx of tourists to Obion County and the entire region.
Belle Island Village
Pigeon Forge prepares for Hollywood
The Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Motion Picture Museum will soon open its doors in Pigeon Forge. The museum is part of Belle Island Village, a multi-use themed destination expected to be one of the largest in the southeast, featuring entertainment, attractions, shopping, restaurants and accommodations. In addition to the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Motion Picture Museum, Belle Island Village will also include the Darrell Waltrip Racing Experience, the Knoxville Zoo’s Otter Cove and a kid’s entertainment area with rides and games.
Recently the “Topping Off” ceremony was held at the village to mark the end of the steel construction frame for the entire project. Debbie Reynolds, her son and Museum CEO Todd Fisher, along with Darrel Waltrip and his associate Jeff Hammond, were on hand for the ceremony.
Belle Island Village is a $114 million, pedestrian-friendly development that will be located in the heart of Pigeon Forge and is expected to attract in excess of 2.5 million visitors a year.
Tennessee Tourism Markets its Plan
The department’s 2008-2009 Marketing Plan will be available for viewing online Friday, August 8. This comprehensive report will provide detailed information on TDTD’s TV, print, and Internet advertising. In addition, co-op advertising opportunities will be featured.
Our primary marketing objectives include: increase visitation to Tennessee; increase consideration of Tennessee as a vacation destination; strengthen and communicate Tennessee’s brand promise, and leverage the state’s marketing dollars as effectively as possible. We are confident the 2008-2009 Marketing Plan presented will continue to achieve these important objectives.
The plan maintains a media mix of all marketing and advertising services and places a strong focus on Internet opportunities. Though the department has experienced a budget reduction, we have addressed this issue with a high regard for integrity and quality to continually position Tennessee as a market leader, both in captivating products and as a must-see destination.
Furthermore, by making adjustments in other areas, the department was able to sustain the current level of funding for the Marketing Partnership, in our effort to support the industry as much as funds would allow. The department’s three regional managers and regional tourism association directors will be provided printed copies of the report for local and regional distribution. Additionally, you may download a copy of the 2008-2009 Marketing Plan at the following
Web site address: http://www.tnvacation.com/industry/
Teaching Tourism as a Career
The Memphis Convention and Visitors’ Bureau has undertaken the task of developing tourism paths for high school students. The Memphis Tourism Education Foundation, the educational arm of the Memphis CVB has, for the second year, held its Summer Youth Institute.
The eight-week program provided more than 60 students with tremendous opportunities, ranging from classroom lectures to field trips at various attractions in Memphis. Calvin Taylor, vice president of the Memphis CVB and executive director of the Foundation, said “The Institute prepares them for the world of work by providing students with a firm foundation and full understanding of what creates a good work ethic and basic job readiness skills.”
Students were taught in areas that included employability skills, conflict management, customer service, resume development and interview skills. They also visited several sites including Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum. Dr. Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, assistant commissioner of community & industry relations, taught the students for a week-long session assisted by Marty Marbry, West Tennessee regional director. “It was a special experience for me to interact with the students about specific tourism careers and the process of getting a job in the tourism industry,” stated Qualls-Brooks. We worked a great deal on skills: identifying what was needed and how to attain them in areas of both oral and written communication as well as performance and productivity.”
Among many projects, students worked on several communication exercises developing appropriate oral language, coupled with suitable body language and proper tone in order to communicate one consistent message using all of those facets. Jacinta Moore, said, “I did not realize talking could be so hard.” Students also participated in a career fair and ended the program with a graduation ceremony. Qualls-Brooks said, “I gained far more from this experience than the students; it was exhilarating and enlightening.”
Facts & Trends
The Staycation Expo, hosted by Cool Springs Galleria on July 12-13, was an enormous success with more than 80,000 consumers visiting the mall and having first-hand access to the Tennessee tourism message. The ultimate goal of the Staycation Expo was to educate and encourage the consumer to visit the many wonderful attractions throughout the state. The event is paying off. Tom Signs of Elm Hill Marina states, "We had a very successful Expo. Several people have already been to the marina to rent boats.” Representatives from the Department of Tourist Development, as well as industry partners from 35 tourism attractions, participated in the event. The vote was unanimous from all representatives that the Staycation Expo should return in 2009.
Specialty Civil War License Plates Order Forms Available
The new license plate is part of Tennessee's launch of the commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. The Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association (TCWPA) needs 1000 orders to begin production of the license plate and seeks the support of all those committed to Tennessee's history as well as heritage tourism. The specialty plate fee is $35, nearly $16.00 of that amount goes directly to preserving TN Civil War Battlefields. To order a Civil War license plate, please visit TCWPA's Web site at www.tcwpa.org for the form and more information and a short video about the plate.
Tennessee Tax Holiday Takes Place
August 1-3 is the sales tax holiday in Tennessee. Exempt items include
-School and art supplies with a price of $100 or less per item
-Clothing with a price of $100 or less per item
-Computers with a price of $1,500 or less.
You can find updated lists of exempt items, retailer information, news and more at www.tntaxholiday.com.
Grants and Funding Opportunities
Agritourism Tour Planned
Tennessee agritourism entrepreneurs are invited to pack their bags and join a classroom on wheels. To participate applications must be returned to the Center for Profitable Agriculture at the University of Tennessee by August 4, 2008. The Agritourism in Action Bus Tour will be held November 11-13 and will start and end in the Nashville area. The tour will make stops at various types of agritourism operations in Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.
“Visiting existing businesses and hearing from the owners is one of the best ways for entrepreneurs to learn how to improve their own businesses,” says Megan Bruch, marketing specialist with the Center . “Operators have asked us to develop an educational tour, and we are able to make it happen thanks to assistance from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.”
The number of participants is limited, so interested operators must submit an application. Only operators from existing Tennessee agritourism enterprises are eligible to apply, and applications will only be accepted for one person per enterprise.
Applications can be found online at the cpa.utk.edu Web site or an application can be requested by contacting the Center for Profitable Agriculture at (931) 486-2777. To learn more about the tour, visit http://cpa.utk.edu or contact Megan Bruch with specific questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or (931) 486-2777.
Grants for Roadscapes
Tennessee Roadscapes grants are once again being made available to groups that are interested in beautifying Tennessee’s roadside right- of-ways. These landscaping grants are distributed through an application process available on the TDOT Web site at www.tdot.state.tn.us/roadscapes. Partnership Grants, with a 20% match requirement, are available for a minimum of $10,000 and a maximum of $120,000 for community landscaping projects on roadside right-of-ways. Applications are due by September 12, 2008.
Through Tennessee Roadscapes, TDOT partners with city, county and community organizations for environmentally friendly landscaping projects along interstates and highways throughout the state. Among other things, these programs help attract tourists, new residents and new businesses, builds a sense of pride in local communities and develops naturalized landscapes that help to keep maintenance costs down.
If you have questions please phone or email Shawn Bible, TDOT Beautification Coordinator at (615) 532-3488 or email@example.com
Employee of the Month
Deane Galbreath, a Welcome Center Assistant at the Hartford Welcome Center, is the Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for July 2008. Commissioner Whitaker recently received a card from tourists who were very thankful that Deane had helped them during their visit to Tennessee:
"I would like to take this opportunity to commend one of your Welcome Center employees, Deane at the Hartford Center. ...My husband and I stopped (at the Welcome Center) briefly. An hour later, when we arrived at our hotel in Gatlinburg, I realized I had left my pocketbook at the rest area. With the help of the motel manager we were able to find the telephone number to the Welcome Center. Deane immediately told us she had my pocketbook. A woman had found it in a stall and turned it in... We returned immediately to pick it up. Deane was extremely conscientious and so very helpful... You are lucky to have Deane on your staff."
"Deane has been with the center since it opened in 1991. She is a hard worker and does a great job!," said Jackie Rains, Welcome Center Manager.
This is the second time that Deane has been honored as Employee of the Month.
Robert "Buddy" Miller
The staff of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development mourns the loss of Robert Miller. Buddy, as he was known by all, served as the manager of the Dyersburg Tennessee Welcome Center for 18 years.
"Buddy was a good person to work for, probably the best I have ever worked for," said Darrell Murray part of the Dyersburg Welcome Center maintenance team.
Buddy was survived by his wife of 55 years, Mae, son Bobby and grandson Bobby Jr.
"Buddy was an outstanding individual who was very dedicated to his job at the Dyersburg Welcome Center. He always had the Center looking great and a story to tell about his experiences at the Center from the past. His employees were crazy about him and looked up to him as their leader. He will be missed," said Barry Young Director of Welcome Centers.
Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.
Another Top 100 Hotel List
Travel + Leisure magazine’s World’s Best Awards has named Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel one of the Top 100 hotels in the continental U.S. and Canada. This is the Hermitage’s first appearance on this list.
Jack Daniel Distillery, Lynchburg
Daniel Passes Walker
Jack Daniel recently surpassed Johnny Walker to become the best-selling whiskey in the world. There are currently 1.5 million barrels of the whiskey aging at the distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn.
AOL Outdoor Adventure has named Dollywood Theme Park one of the Top Ten Unique Theme Parks in the U.S. The site urges you to visit the “down-home, wholesome” attraction as well as other sites in Pigeon Forge.
Nashville Zoo Named Among Nation’s Best Zoos
America’s Best Zoos: A Travel Guide for Fans and Families has named Nashville Zoo among the top 60 zoos in America. Just 11 years after opening, Nashville Zoo is recognized with the nation’s leading zoos. The guide cites Nashville Zoo as one of the premier places to see clouded leopards, alligators and meerkats. “Due to [Nashville Zoo’s] youth, almost all of its exhibits are nearly brand new, built using the most modern exhibit technology to make almost every exhibit look like a gorgeous natural habitat,” says “America’s Best Zoos.” “Because of this, the Nashville Zoo is considered by many in the zoo world to be one of the most beautiful zoos in the nation.”
Sevierville Excited Over First Water Park Resort
A new resort hotel in Sevierville, Wilderness at the Smokies, is the area's first full-service water park resort. The resort features 234 rooms and a 40,000-square-foot outdoor water park with a 207-foot tube slide, a 180-foot body slide, a huge four-level play structure with smaller slides, and a special pool for little ones.
Fifty Nifty Attractions
AARP has named their top 50 attractions in Tennessee. Eleven of the association's 50 favorites are in Memphis, including the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, the Memphis Zoo and Graceland. Also making the list are: Natchez Trace Parkway, Fall Creek Falls and Land Between the Lakes; the towns of Jonesborough and Rugby, major attractions like Jack Daniel Distillery and Visitor's Center and attractions including the Teapot Museum in Trenton.
Web Site Makes Tennessee History Fun
There's a new Web site that proves Tennessee History is fun. The Tennessee History for Kids non-profit organization offers a comprehensive Web site that is designed to help students learn more about the Volunteer State. The Web site, www.tnhistoryforkids.org, offers information on all of Tennessee's 95 counties.
Civil Rights Museum gains in visitation
The National Civil Rights Museum experienced its largest attendance ever, this fiscal year. As of June 30, the museum had registered 210,000 visitors.
The Museum has benefitted tremendously from national television coverage on CNN’s investigative special Witness to Murder commemorating the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Additional documentaries are planned for national broadcast by legendary actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte and PBS host Tavis Smiley in 2009 and the BBC will be filming at the Museum in August 2008.
Tennessee Historical Commission Honors
The Tennessee Historical Commission named 13 recipients of its annual Certificate of Merit Awards. This award recognizes individuals and groups throughout the state who have worked to preserve the state’s cultural heritage through historic preservation projects and the study of Tennessee’s history. Awards went to: The Main Street Collierville Historic Church Markers Program, The Humboldt Higher Education Committee, The Cookeville History Museum, The Grundy County Historical Society and “Ordinary Heroes: The Birth of a Movement,” a play written by Vali Forrester and Jeff Obafemi Carr and organized by Lipscomb and Fisk Universities.
Fentress County announces that Leann Houston has been promoted to tourism & membership director. Also, Elizabeth Pendergrass has been hired as the new office administrator.
Rachel Baker, executive director, Team Hardin County, has been appointed to the Three Star Advisory Council.
Suanne Bone and Noell Rembert
Congratulations to Suanne Bone, legislative liaison and Noell Rembert, Civil War Trails manager, for completing a 13.1-mile run at the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country half marathon. The two ran to raise funds and awareness for research leading to improved treatment options and a cure for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development salutes its employees for their commitment to this cause.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You