Dear Tourism Friends,
Once again, the events of the past year have proven that the one thing that never changes is that life is certain to change, sometimes in dramatic ways.
No one can dispute that this has been an unusually challenging time for all Americans, even those of us blessed to live in Tennessee. Responding and adapting to these challenges will take good planning, energy, enthusiasm and strong partnerships.
Tennessee's tourism industry is known for having all of these things in abundance so I am confident that we will continue to rise to every challenge, positioning ourselves for success and future growth. During this extraordinarily beautiful and meaningful season, I hope you will take a moment to enjoy the millions of lights (many of them now LED!) adorning our communities and attractions. Both big cities and small towns will host tree-lighting ceremonies, Christmas parades, elegant galas and heart-warming church pageants starring our favorite tiny actors who sometimes improvise the script and delight the audience!
In spite of the world's economic climate, family and friends will gather from far and near to celebrate the holidays and enjoy their time together. We are privileged to be a part of an industry that facilitates this travel as well as many of the memorable experiences that people will treasure for a lifetime. Thank you for working so hard every day to make this possible.
My heartfelt prayer is that each of you will be filled with the joy and peace of this special season. God bless you richly!
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Governor Bredesen Wins Humanitarian Award
Governor Bredesen received this year's National Humanitarian Award for his conservation efforts in Tennessee. The National Recreation and Park Association cited Bredesen's creation of the Heritage Conservation Trust Fund, as well as a project to protect 127-thousand acres of the Cumberland Plateau.
Last year, the NRPA rated Tennessee's parks system best in the nation.
Close to Home for the Holidays
Tennessee has a way of calling family and friends home during the holiday season. And there's no time like winter, with our seasonal celebrations and warm gatherings. Close to home you will find endless opportunities to create holiday memories by exploring our rich past in historic homes and towns, seeing the lights, hearing the music, and tasting the food. And don't forget the shopping!
In East Tennessee, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg sparkle brighter each year as they continue to update the 5 million lights of Winterfest with new energy saving LED bulbs. Dollywood showcases their award-winning Smoky Mountain Christmas with an additional 4 million lights. Trolley rides are popular at Winterfest, however if racing is your speed, drive on the "World's Fastest Half-Mile" at Bristol Motor Speedway. There are more than 1.5 million lights in over 200 animated displays to enjoy. Finally, for a different pace, take the family ice skating in downtown Knoxville, surrounded by tree-lit rooftops during Christmas in the City.
For a more intimate celebration, visit the Museum of Appalachia in Norris Tenn. where a winter wonderland awaits with Christmas in turn-of-century structures including a dirt-floored pioneer cabin, the gaily decorated homestead house, and an old log school house. Rock City's Enchanted Garden of Lights in Chattanooga offers a walk through the award-winning light extravaganza, which features 25 holiday scenes and nearly a million lights.
In Middle Tennessee, Gaylord Opryland Hotel rolls out the red carpet for the holidays with "A Country Christmas." This elaborate affair includes nearly 2 million lights that draw visitors from around the world. In addition to the scenery, visit Opryland's ICE!, Louise Mandrell's "Joy to the World" Christmas & Dinner Show, or see the world famous Radio City Rockettes perform their traditional Christmas show.
For a historical holiday, attend the Confederate Christmas Ball in Columbia, Tenn. Step back in time and fill your dance card as you swirl the floor to authentic reels, promenades and waltzes popular during the 1860s. In Franklin, enjoy a Dickens of a Christmas where you can experience a Victorian holiday festival featuring more than 200 costumed characters from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday arts & crafts, street performers and Victorian treats.
The holidays began early in West Tennessee with Thanksgiving Homecoming in Casey Jones Village, in Jackson. Festivities at the Old Country Store included live bluegrass entertainment, mulled cider and light refreshments, specials, door prizes and taste tests. To see the wildest lights in town, visit the Memphis Zoo to enjoy twinkling lights, Santa Claus and his reindeer, horse-drawn wagon rides, holiday shopping and more. Graceland makes the season fit for the "King". The extensive spectacle includes hundreds of blue lights along the driveway, a life-size Nativity scene, Santa and his sleigh, and much more originally displayed at Graceland by Elvis.
Tennessee is a wonderful place for you and your guests to enjoy what the holidays have to offer. The Stage is Set for You to create your own Tennessee holiday story. For a complete list of everything Tennessee has to offer this winter, visit winter.tnvacation.com.
Tennessee’s World-class Tourism Industry Wows Travel Writers
In the past 18 months, more than 130 travel writers have participated in Tennessee FAMS, traversing Tennessee, from Bristol to Memphis, Chattanooga to Clarksville, and all points in between. And with visits to every region and sub-region of the state, these seasoned travelers come away with a new-found love and appreciation for the Volunteer State.
A familiar refrain has been heard coming from these professional travelers; “I’m in awe of Tennessee’s beauty.” “I had no idea there is so much to do and see in Tennessee.” “These are the nicest people I’ve ever met.” “Can you send me a Tennessee Information Packet? I want to move here!” The bottom line – they are completely amazed by Tennessee and our world-class tourism industry.
Since August, travel writers have participated in tours to the Smoky Mountain region, Upper Cumberland region and the South central/Southwest regions of Tennessee. Among the publications represented on these five-day trips were National Geographic Traveler, Woman’s Day, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AAA Alabama Journey, Golf Guide and Golf Getaway, The History Channel Magazine, Destination I DO magazine, and many, many, more.
The trip to the Smoky Mountains highlighted the region’s scenic beauty, outdoor adventures, music and arts, shopping, history and heritage, and family attractions. The comprehensive tour included Blount, Sevier and Cocke Counties and showcased more than 40 attractions, hotels, restaurants and retailers in the region.
In the Upper Cumberland region, the tour highlighted Clay, Fentress, Pickett, Overton, Jackson, Putnam, Cumberland, White, Scott and Morgan Counties and focused on the region’s outdoor adventures, scenic beauty, arts and crafts, fall scenery, fishing, and golfing.
Most recently, a group of travel writers landed in Nashville to experience the South central/Southwest tour, visiting Coffee, Franklin, Lincoln, Marshall, Giles, Lawrence, Wayne, Lewis, Perry, Hardin, McNairy and Fayette Counties, book-ended with days spent in Nashville and Memphis.
Travel writers have now visited every region of Tennessee, including West, Southeast, Middle, Northeast, Middle East, Smoky Mountains, Upper Cumberland and South central/Southwest. Plans for 2009-2010 tours include two tours focused on Tennessee’s culinary and agri-tourism offerings, and one trip spotlighting Tennessee’s Civil War sites leading up to the Civil War sesquicentennial.
Williamson County Joins Heritage Travel Inc
Historic Franklin in Williamson County, Tennessee has signed on as the first participating destination with Heritage Travel, Inc., a new subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Launching in early 2009, Heritage Travel, Inc., will provide extensive online visibility for historic destinations, as well as a professional forum where destinations can network and share best practices. Travelers will have a one-stop travel planning resource and an online community where people can find, share and connect through heritage-rich interests and experiences.
Rich named as Employee of the Month
"I feel honored but not deserving. There are many more employees in around that deserve it but I am honored. I couldn't do my job without the great employees that I have and my peers. It is a truly team effort throughout all the Welcome Centers". These are the sentiments of this the November 2008 Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month.
Janice Rich, Manager at the I-65 Giles County (Ardmore) Welcome Center and November recipient, started her career with the Department of Tourist Development in 1983 as a Welcome Center Assistant. Then in 1998, she was promoted to Manager of the Ardmore Welcome Center.
Janice is a very dedicated, hard working employee who does whatever it takes to keep her Center running smoothly and serving tourists in a professional manner. This includes working maintenance shifts or working the counter whenever she is called upon, as well as showing up at her Center in the middle of the night if there is a problem, and she does it with a smile. We have received many compliments about how neat and well kept the Ardmore Welcome Center is and how well her staff works together to serve the traveling public. Janice is a wealth of knowledge as she has helped many of her fellow Managers across the state with problems they have encountered at their Centers. She always puts others first and is glad to help her coworkers if they have questions or problems, especially with purchasing procedures.
Others appreciate all of the good information and advice Janice shares with them and she is genuine in her desire to help others.
Tennessee Civil War Trails
Just recently, more Civil War Trails markers have been installed across the state bringing the number to 35 markers officially in the ground and we are still growing! From East to West, more markers and trail blazer signs can now be spotted in Lebanon, Gallatin, Camden, Parker's Crossroads, Trenton, Collierville, Lexington, Mt. Pleasant, and Lenoir City in addition to the inaugural installations in Franklin, Columbia, Blountville and Giles County. There is a lot of interest across the state, and we are getting many inquiries as several communities start thinking of the Sesquicentennial (150th) of the American Civil War the goal is to have every county in the state participate in the Civil War Trails program. The Civil War Trials has been cited by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the most sustainable tourism programs in the country - a program that Tennessee is now proud to be a part of. Also, check out www.civilwartrails.org where you can find more information on TN Civil War Trails as well as the other states in the program. The next round of installations will be held in Mid-March, so stay tuned for more sites coming on board!
For more information contact Noell Rembert, Civil War Heritage Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lee Curtis, Director of Program Development, at email@example.com for more information on this very successful program.
Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.
The award-winning Chattanoogan Hotel
Four Diamond Stay
Benchmark Hospitality’s The Chattanoogan hotel, Tennessee’s Urban Resort, has been awarded the prestigious AAA Four Diamond Rating for the first time since its opening in 2001. The Chattanoogan is one of only 15 hotels in the state of Tennessee to receive the honor, and the only full-service hotel in Chattanooga to win the award.
Historic Renovation Begins
There's a lot in the future for the historic Wilson Sporting Goods factory building in Cookeville's West Side. Plans to draw tourist include a dinosaur museum that will highlight the renovations and upgrades planned for the former manufacturing plant. The factory is currently divided into seven different spaces with the idea to house galleries for local artists, professional offices, an international grocery store and even a basement tavern.
The Titanic to resurface in Tennessee!
Titanic Pigeon Forge Announced for Spring 2010
The keel is being laid for Titanic Pigeon Forge, a towering ship-shaped museum/attraction devoted to the world’s best-know ocean liner. The 30,000 square-foot structure is a $25 million project of Cedar Bay Entertainment, which is the parent company of the first Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson.
Best Places to Live
The inaugural Progressive Farmers Reader’s Choice Awards for the best place to live in rural America has chosen the top 10. Three of the top ten are located in Tennessee. Obion County, Dyer County and Weakley County all made the list.
Williamson County Honored
The National Trust for Historic Preservation presented the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County with its National Preservation Honor Award. The organization was one of 21 national award winners honored during the trust’s 2008 National Preservation Conference. These awards are bestowed on distinguished individuals, nonprofit organizations, public agencies and corporations for preservation of architectural and cultural heritage.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You