Dear Tourism Partners,
While driving into work the other morning, my thoughts turned to our current economic environment and the Department of Tourist Development's need to "do more with less," admittedly not the most exciting thing to be contemplating in traffic. But then it suddenly occurred to me that the only "less" we had to work with was less money. We actually now have a great deal "more" to work with than we have ever had. Let me explain what I mean.
After the past six years of Tennessee's investment (thanks to Governor Bredesen and the General Assembly), we have seen a tremendous period of growth and incredible successes in tourism. This, coupled with the strong and innovative efforts on the part of the entire industry throughout the state, has created more important elements of future success than we have ever had working on our behalf.
We now have more momentum - our visitation numbers have put us into the top 10 of person days and person stays and over $14.2 billion in direct economic impact. Research shows that the traveling public considers us more affordable, accessible and entertaining than our competitive set of states, an enviable position to be in!
We now have more infrastructure - the state investment has enabled us to create an in-house news bureau and an award-winning Web site that continues to draw millions of new prospective visitors and provides them direct access to our vast number of things to see and do in Tennessee. We also have a myriad of marketing co-op opportunities that enable local tourism partners to gain access to national publications and Web sites that were too expensive in the past.
We are riding a wave of more publicity, national recognition and increased visibility - from our Dolly and Elvis TV spot to our Great Smoky Mountain Sustainable Tourism Conference to our new triumph of being named the Number ONE state for Motorcoach Travel in 2009 by Byways magazine, we keep racking up the big national stories that keep Tennessee's name in front of the traveling public.
We now have more key partnerships that enable us to make our dollars go further including those with the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Economic and Community Development, Environment and Conservation and Transportation. The Governor's strong leadership in bringing the state resources together has enabled us to leverage grant monies from a variety of sources to increase Agritourism, our new Civil War Trail and our upcoming Sustainable Tourism conferences across the state, to name just a few.
We have more professional training opportunities, a critical need in tough times like these. The TACVB's Blizzard III was an outstanding success - congratulations and heartfelt thanks for providing such important speakers and topics of discussion for the industry. We promise to continue to bring you the latest in research and trends as well as motivation at our 2009 Governor's Conference in Murfreesboro, September 16-18.
And all of that 'MORE' is really just the tip of the iceberg of good news and plentiful resources that all of us in Tennessee Tourism have at our disposal. I am sure you could list many others (and I would love to hear them!). In fact, I have to tell you, by the time I reached the parking garage of the Tennessee Tower, I was feeling pretty good about our opportunities to grow this industry over the next few years.
Make no mistake, this is not some pollyanna denial of the critical economic situation we are facing; we all know what a difficult and uncertain time this is for everyone. You can't turn on a television without hearing about it. Rather it is a matter of focus, focusing on what we do have to work with, not what we don't have. I am a firm believer that innovation does not spring out of a scarcity mentality. There are, however, many great stories of innovation and business success happening during very difficult economic times. Let's not waste the opportunities we have been given.
Our Tennessee Sampler taking place next week in Washington D.C., February 9-11, at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center is another example of our unusually rich opportunities this year. We were fortunate to be able to partner with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's 75th anniversary and their ambassador Dolly Parton, to create a huge special event featuring Dolly and the new show "Sha-Kon-O-Hey! Land of Blue Smoke" for the media and tourism buyers/operators. An appearance by Dolly has made this a 'don't miss' sales event for Tennessee and we are so grateful that she agreed to do this for all of us! And, did I mention that the BOSS is going to headline Bonnaroo this year?! Bruce Springsteen: straight from the Super Bowl Half-Time Show to Tennessee!
I also want to congratulate the Memphis CVB and its Foundation as well as the National Civil Rights Museum for the launch of two special documentaries on the Civil Rights Movement. The Oscar nominated documentary "The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306" will be airing on HBO and Comcast Cable and is a deeply moving first-hand account of the night Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. In addition, "I Am a Man" documents the Memphis sanitation strike in a poignant depiction of that watershed moment in our country. Congratulations to all of you who made these world-class
In everything we do, the tourism industry of Tennessee continues to perform at the highest level of product creation and customer service, bringing our state great economic reward and valuable contributions to our heritage and communities. We are committed to continuing that grand tradition of our three grand regions throughout 2009 and far beyond in to the future. My thanks to each of you for making this possible.
Warmly and with great respect,
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Tennessee Sampler Brings Dolly Parton To Nation’s Capital
Event Kicks Off 75th Anniversary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Entertainment legend Dolly Parton performs at this year’s Tennessee Sampler, an exclusive VIP event hosted by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development on Feb. 10 from 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, M.D.
The Tennessee Sampler event, including an invitation-only performance by Parton, officially launches the yearlong 75th anniversary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park for which East Tennessee native Parton serves as ambassador.
The Tennessee Sampler, tourism’s annual tradeshow event, showcases Tennessee tourism assets including major hotels and attractions, CVB’s, and regional tourism associations. This year the Sampler will bring more than 80 industry professionals representing more than 50 tourism entities to the D.C. region. Invited guests include tour operators, group leaders, AAA offices, freelance travel writers, and local, regional and national media outlets.
"Tennessee is best known for our music and scenic beauty," said Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker. "Having Dolly Parton kick off the 75th anniversary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the D.C. Tennessee Sampler is a world-class way to showcase one of Tennessee's most important tourism stories. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s No. 1 most visited national park and exists because Tennesseans and North Carolinians, along with our political forefathers, had the vision to preserve and protect this vast and remarkable landscape for the enjoyment of all."
"As an East Tennessee girl, I'm honored to have been chosen as the official ambassador for Great Smoky Mountains National Park's 75th anniversary," Parton said. "I've been the unofficial ambassador for years, singing the praises of God's spectacular beauty all around the world. These mountains inspired my new "Sha-Kon-O-Hey! musical and CD, and this is my way of making sure folks everywhere know what a wonderful treasure they are."
The day-long activities begin with Parton’s lunchtime appearance at the National Press Club. A special media briefing is scheduled at Gaylord National from 4:30 p.m.– 5:30 p.m., featuring Tourism Commissioner Whitaker, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale
Ditmanson and Parton. The press event is followed immediately by the Tennessee Sampler tradeshow from 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. Parton will then take the 75th anniversary story nation-wide with her appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live at 9 p.m.
Other world-class tourism attractions represented at the Tennessee Sampler are Elvis’s Graceland, the Grand Ole Opry, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, The Peabody Memphis and Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
In addition to the special performance by Parton and Dollywood’s Sha-Kon-O-Hey! cast members, Sampler guests will have the opportunity to receive Tennessee information distributed from Tennessee partner booths, win door prizes, and enjoy delicious food and beverages.
Tour Operators Name Tennessee First In 2009 Motorcoach Travel
Tennessee has been named the No.1 Motorcoach State for 2009 by Byways magazine, one of the tourism industry’s most respected motorcoach publications. This ranking, based upon an annual survey of where U.S. motorcoach operators plan to bring tour groups in 2009, is good news for the $14.2 billion tourism industry in Tennessee.
“Tennessee has always been a popular destination with its world-class attractions that draw motorcoach travel,” said Steve Kirchner, Byways magazine publisher. “Naturally, landing at No.1 is our strongest indicator that 2009 will be an exceptionally good year for motorcoach travel to Tennessee.”
“The ranking in Byways magazine is a strong vote of confidence for Tennessee’s growing stature in the world of motorcoach travel,” said Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker. “This travel niche has always been a high priority for Tennessee’s tourism industry, and reaching the No.1 ranking in Byways magazine is an excellent gauge of our industry-wide efforts.”
Tennessee’s closest competitors in 2009 are Virginia at No. 2 and Florida at No. 3. Rounding out the top five are New York and Pennsylvania. Tennessee held the No. 2 spot in Byways in 2008.
Byways magazine is a bi-monthly publication in its 26th year, reaching more than 4,000 U.S. motorcoach operators and tour planners. It is hailed “the motorcoach magazine for motorcoach tour planners.” The annual survey, forecasting the upcoming year’s motorcoach travel plans, was conducted in the last two months of 2008.
In addition to Tennessee’s No.1 state ranking, three of Tennessee’s tourism attractions made the “Top 10 Man-made Attractions” list, including the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville (No.4), Dollywood in Pigeon Forge (No.6) and Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis (No.8).
Tennessee’s three grand regions, east, middle and west, were represented in the publication’s “Top 50 Cities,” with Pigeon Forge ranking No. 4, Nashville at No.6, Memphis No.22 and Knoxville receiving an honorable mention.
News of this exciting achievement was picked-up by the Associated Press and has received impressive news coverage including appearing on the USA Today Web site.
Franklin, Tennessee Named One of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations by National Trust for Historic Preservation
Franklin, Tennessee was recently named a 2009 Dozen Distinctive Destination by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The prestigious title of Distinctive Destination is presented to cities and towns across the country that offer an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes and a strong commitment to historic preservation and revitalization, according to the National Trust. In each community, residents have taken forceful action to protect their town's character and sense of place.
Mark Shore, Executive Director, Williamson County
CVB; Rogers Anderson, Mayor, Williamson County;
Commissioner Susan Whitaker; Nancy Tinker, Senior
Program Officer, National Trust for Historic Preservation;
John Schroer, Mayor, City of Franklin; Dr. Carroll
Van West, Advisor, National Trust for Historic
Preservation; Executive Director, Tennessee Civil
War National Heritage Area
Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation had this to say, "Franklin has fostered a strong preservation ethic that has helped retain its distinct sense of place and protect the region's architecture, village communities and traditional farmsteads. Its rural atmosphere and southern charm make it a vacation destination not to be missed."
Downtown Franklin, a 15-block historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, offers an eclectic mix of more than 70 trendy boutiques, antiques shops and restaurants. With a history that dates back more than 200 years, it offers a Great American Main Street experience with commemorative brick sidewalks, Victorian architecture and beautifully restored historic buildings. Franklin also boasts an impressive lineup of family-friendly festivals that take place throughout the year.
Franklin is well known as the site of the Civil War's Battle of Franklin. Visitors experience the stories and sights of the Civil War by touring the Carter House, Lotz House and Carnton Plantation. Tennessee's NEW Civil War Trail markers were introduced in late 2008 with 14 interpretive signs in Franklin and Williamson County. Just down the road from Franklin is the historic village of Leiper's Fork. Protected by conservation easements, this charming rural community offers country cooking, and unique shops.Other signature attractions include Arrington Vineyards, and the Natchez Trace Parkway, a National Scenic Byway.
The 2009 list of America's Dozen Distinctive destinations includes Athens, GA; Bristol, RI; Buffalo, NY; Fort Worth, TX; Franklin, TN; Hot Springs, SD; Lake Geneva, WI; Lititz, PA; Santa Barbara, CA; Sante Fe, NM; Saugatuck-Douglas, MI; Virginia City, NV. Franklin is only the third city in Tennessee to have ever received the Dozen Distinctive designation along with Jonesborough in 2005 and Pittman Center in 2000.
Blizzard III Exceeds Forecast
Community tourism leaders from across the state were not disappointed as they convened in Nashville for Blizzard III “Weathering the Storm” presented by Miles Media. “A record number of attendees, 142, participated in the fast paced noon-to-noon series of learning and networking opportunities,” said Sheila Leggett, Executive Director of the Tennessee Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (TACVB).
Commissioner Susan Whitaker and former championship coach Michael Bert provided attendees an abundance of motivation to “weather the storm” in 2009. Tourism leaders also learned the latest in Tennessee tourism research, strategies to protect tourism budgets, growing interest in Culinary and Agri-Tourism, the latest marketing opportunities thru social media and cell phones plus more.
Additional information about the TACVB is available at www.tacvb.net.
Photo Contest Highlights
If you are a photographer with a fondness for breathtaking landscapes, you might want to enter Scenic Tennessee's 2008-2009 photo contest,"Lands Worth Preserving."
This year’s competition, cosponsored by The Land Trust for Tennessee, celebrates Tennessee’s most characteristic lands: working farms,unspoiled river corridors, habitat-rich forests, mountain balds,historic estates. Such landscapes are the natural and cultural embodiment of the Volunteer State, but they face a variety of threats.By highlighting their scenic qualities, the contest's sponsors hope tounderscore the need to preserve them.
Cash prizes of $100, $50 and $25 will be awarded in five categories:amateur, professional, middle-school student, high-school student andcollege level. Top mages will be displayed online and elsewhere, andmay be mounted into a traveling exhibit. The judges include JeanNelson, executive director of The Land Trust for Tennessee, and JoyMcKenzie, chair of the photography department at Watkins College ofArt and Design.
Images may be submitted by e-mail or regular mail, but they must be ontheir way by June 1. For guidelines and a submission form, visit www.scenictennessee.org, or contact contest coordinator Marge Davis at (615) 758-8647; firstname.lastname@example.org
Facts & Trends
TDTD Announces New Calendar of Events Distribution
Each month, TDTD’s News Bureau showcases the state’s key tourist activities to the media across the region. The new calendar provides media outlets the much needed three month lead time in planning their editorial content. As a constant reminder, quarterly calendars are sent out the first week of each month, promoting events four, five and six months in advance.
In addition, the department’s award winning web-site, TNVacation.com continues to feature more than 800 annual festivals and events. Tourism partners can update the online calendar through their individual “partner page.”
To submit events for consideration in the quarterly calendar, send your completed event form to Carlyne.Foster@state.tn.us or fax to 615.741.7225. Event forms are available online at TNVacation.com/industry.
New Name. New Responsibilities for TH&LA
The Tennessee Hotel & Lodging Association has adopted a new name, Tennessee Hospitality Association (THA). The change follows the acquisition of assets from the former Tennessee Restaurant Association.
The transaction was endorsed and approved by the National Restaurant Association and the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “This is not an unprecedented event.” said Walt Baker, CEO of TH&LA. “There are more than 20 state hospitality associations that manage the needs of both the lodging and restaurant companies in their respective states.” The consolidation of similar programs and functions under a single management structure provides the economies of scale that will provide increased stability for both organizations.
In coming days, THA’s new web site, www.tnhospitality.net, will showcase a single organization, dedicated to providing services, benefits and governmental advocacy for the hospitality industry.
Membership Grows in Natchez Trace Compact
Hohenwald, Tennessee is the latest community in the state to join the promotional arm of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The 444 mile scenic roadway extends through portions of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi and follows the trail heavily used by Native Americans and settlers in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory when he mysteriously died on the Natchez Trace in 1809. Lewis’s grave is marked with a monument in Hohenwald and is visible from the Parkway.
Collinwood, Tennessee in Wayne County joined the compact in 2006, and each year, nearly 13,000 guests have signed the welcome center guest book. The Wayne County Welcom Center is the closest to the Parkway in the state, located at mile marker 355. Dorothye McGrath, coordinator of the center’s 30 volunteers, says the staff takes great pride in promoting their community’s hospitality by serving the guests fresh baked goodies baked from home. That, and extremely clean restrooms, fresh hot coffee and a friendly “Hello!” are all welcomed amenities along the Parkway.
Membership as a corridor community will reach 7 million subscribers through their website www.scenictrace.com and other publications.
Bulk Requests Accepted for Vacation Guide
If you would like to receive a bulk shipment of the 2009 Tennessee Vacation Guide for distribution at your agency or destination, please provide the following information to Gladys.Carr@state.tn.us: Agency Name, Contact Person, Physical Address (NO post office box number), City, State, Zip, Contact Phone Number and Quantity of Guides Requested. Each case contains 32 guides.
$200,000 to Be Awarded to Gems of Appalachia
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), in partnership with the states of Kentucky and Tennessee, announced a new $200,000 “Gems of Appalachia” grant competition for gateway communities that are entry points to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The grant competition will provide funding to Appalachian communities to promote sustainable tourism, preserve natural resources, support locally owned businesses, encourage outdoor recreation, and celebrate their unique identity.
ARC will host community forums in the Big South Fork region of Tennessee and Kentucky in early May 2009 to discuss strategies for developing sustainable asset-based economic development projects in advance of the grant competition.
The competition’s request for proposals will be issued in early summer, and proposals will be accepted for approximately six weeks. Nonprofit organizations, local governments, public education institutions, and local and regional development organizations located in Tennessee’s Scott, Fentress, Pickett, and Morgan Counties, are eligible to apply for the grants. Projects selected for funding will be announced in August 2009.
For more information, click here.
Black History Month Events in Tennessee
February is Black History Month, celebrated nationwide, with a variety of Tennessee destinations and attractions participating in events. This special time brings cause to celebrate the culture, contributions and trailblazers of African Americans with educational workshops, lectures, exhibitions and events during February as well as through out the year.
In Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum will debut The Witness. Nominated for this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subject, The Witness is a compelling film that tells the story of Rev. Billy Kyles, the last living individual who was on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel when Dr. King was assassinated. The Memphis CVB Foundation will also debut another powerful documentary “I Am a Man” which tells the poignant story of the Memphis sanitation workers and the strike that helped propel the Civil Rights Movement.
There are a variety of events taking place in Middle Tennessee at area universities and various attractions. TSU, MTSU and Fisk universities are all holding special exhibits and lectures during this time at their signature attractions such as the Van Vechten Gallery. The Hermitage, Home of Andrew Jackson, will hold its annual Black History Month program featuring keynote speaker Dr. Adonijah Bakari and a dramatic performance by Sista’ Style.
Oak Ridge in East Tennessee will hold the International Festival featuring the Kuumba Watoto Drum & Dance Company. This world-renowned children’s company performs traditional West African rhythms, dances and songs. The American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge is hosting a special exhibit “African-Americans in World War II” through the end of March.
These are just a few of the events taking place in February. For a complete listing, go to http://www.tnvacation.com/calendar/2009/feb/.
Marilyn Steadman, a Welcome Center Assistant at the I-81 Sullivan County (Bristol) Welcome Center, is the Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for January 2009.
Marilyn has been with the Department of Tourist Development just over two years. She is the recipient of the "Most Reservations"award for the second year in a row, making a total of 1,194 reservations during the past year. How does Marilyn make so many reservations? "When a tourist comes into the Center and looks through our hotel coupon books,I ask them if I can help," she said. "Normally they seem a little hesitant to my question, so I put them at ease by telling them that it is a free service for us to help them make a reservation. Another thing I've learned is to take the time to listen to the customer, i.e.to find out what their interests and needs are. That way I am able to serve them better.
"Manager Jim Bibee is very proud of Marilyn for winning the reservations award for the second year in a row. "Marilyn does a beautiful job in serving the customers. She works very hard to get them the information they ask for," Bibee said. Congratulations to Marilyn Steadman, our January Employee of the Month.
Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.
Kay Poole of Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism,
Peter Pantuso, ABA President & CEO and Monica
Jones of Smoky Mountain Palace/Sevierville.
Not available for pictures was Laurel Bennett
of Nashville Music City CVB.
Group Travel Professionals Recognized
Three Tennessee group tour professionals were awarded their Certified Travel Industry Specialist (CTIS) certification last month during American Bus Association’s (ABA) 2009 Marketplace in Charlotte, NC. CTIS is the first university-administered program in the group travel industry to provide certification for professionals of all categories, including operators, DMOs, hoteliers, attractions and associates. The CTIS program is an ABA member benefit administered by Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). To date, over 450 ABA members have earned the prestigious designation since the program's inception in 1989. Click here for more information.
Ruby Falls Joins Green Globe/Green Certifications Dual Program
GGLB, owner of the Green Globe brand, and Green Certifications, Inc. announced Tennessee's Ruby Falls as the first U.S. client for the dual Green Globe/Green Certifications program for tourism businesses. “Certification by a leader like Green Certifications, Inc. is crucial to holding us to a higher standard and keeping us focused on more environmentally sensitive business processes," stated Hugh Morrow, President of Ruby Falls, LLC."
New Wayfinding Signage In Rutherford County
Thanks to the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Rutherford County Wayfinding Program Board, a new directional signage program is in place in Rutherford County. The program includes 135 directional signs and nine welcome signs. Visitors will be able to easily find their way to Rutherford County's many tourism attractions.
Southern Living Best-Of 2008 List
Favorite Restaurants - # 5 Loveless Café, Best Breakfast or Brunch, #6 Pancake Pantry,
Best Scenic View - #1 Lookout Mountain, #5 Rock City Gardens, #6 Cades Cove, #7 Clingmans Dome,
Best Public Garden - #10 Cheekwood Botanical Garden, Best Southern City - #5 Nashville,
Best Neighborhood for Shopping - #7 Green Hills,
Best Hotel - #2 Gaylord Opryland, #3 Peabody ,
Best Family Destination - #5 Gatlinburg/ Pigeon Forge,
Best Small Town - #5 Franklin
Tennessee Teen’s Ornament Graces White House Tree
Cumberland County teen, Kayla Ayers, designed an ornament for the White House Christmas tree. Every year, the nation’s first lady carries on a Christmas tradition by asking members of Congress to designate an artist from their state, district or territory to create an ornament reflecting a particular theme. This year’s rules required the ornaments to celebrate the patriotic spirit that unites Americans by incorporating a red, white and blue rendition of significant items in the artist’s community. Rep. Lincoln Davis, who represents the 4th Congressional District, chose Miss Ayers after contacting her art teacher at Stone Memorial High School.
Quote of the Month
"The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are."
-Stephen R. Covey
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You