Dear Tourism Friends,
What a whirlwind of a month this has been! I’m writing this from the Travel South Showcase event in Biloxi, Mississippi, where all 12 southeastern states have gathered to put our best “Southern” foot forward for over 600 tourism professionals and media representatives. The interest in all things Tennessee, both our well-known attractions as well the new, has been wonderful. We’re looking forward to lots of group tour bookings and great stories in the coming months as a result of all the hard work by our industry representatives here.
February was also an exceptionally good time for catching up with many of you in the state as we held two rounds of important meetings throughout all three grand regions.
The new Tennessee Civil War Trails program was officially launched with six informational meetings that provided interested partners with background and procedures for participating in this new initiative. This is an incredible opportunity for communities throughout the state to plug into a multi-state marketing effort at a very low cost, thanks to the generous transportation enhancement grant given to the Department of Tourist Development by Governor Bredesen and the Tennessee Department of Transportation. I encourage every community to check into how they might become involved in this very successful heritage tourism program. More details are in a related story in this newsletter.
:pullquote:The second set of meetings was a continuation of the town hall forums started last fall in the gateway communities of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These forums were designed to be a conduit of information about the upcoming Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Conference to take place April 28th and 29th at the Knoxville Convention Center. This event will feature many of the nations’ top experts on sustaining the environment, culture, heritage and economic growth of a community through tourism, with keynote speakers Senator Lamar Alexander, Governor Phil Bredesen, Keith Bellows of National Geographic Traveler and Dr. Suzanne Cook of the Travel Industry Association of America.
You can read more about this unprecedented event in Tennessee tourism in this newsletter and at tnvacation.com/sustainable. Although designed specifically to honor the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this Summit will provide invaluable information on how to become a sustainable tourism destination no matter where you are located. People from all over Tennessee and surrounding states are planning to attend. I invite you to check it out to see if you should be there, too - it’s turning out to be just too good to miss!
Working as a team and learning from one another are two of the most rewarding aspects of employment in this industry. Thank you for making our Tennessee tourism industry such an enjoyable and interesting place to work and visit.
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
The Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit ...Moving the Industry Forward
The inaugural Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit will feature a powerhouse line-up of national state and local experts who have committed to lending their expertise and support to this important dialogue. The event, scheduled for April 28 & 29 in Knoxville at the Knoxville Convention Center, will offer a widespread opportunity to engage discussion about sustainability.
The impressive list of speakers include: Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen; U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, Tennessee; Keith Bellows, Editor-in-Chief, National Geographic Traveler; Dr. Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of Research, Travel Industry Association; Becky Anderson, executive director, Handmade in America; Jean C. Nelson, president and executive director, The Land Trust for Tennessee; Geoffrey Anderson, president and CEO, Smart Growth America; Congressman John Duncan, Jr., Tennessee; Patrice Frey, director of sustainable research, National Trust for Historic Preservation; Frank Ricks, founder and managing principal, Looney Ricks Kiss Architects; Congressman Heath Shuler, North Carolina; Jeff Slye, director of environmental initiatives, Kimpton Group; Jonathan B. Tourtellot, director of the center for sustainable destinations, National Geographic and John L. Nau, III, chairman of the advisory council on historic preservation. In addition, the Summit will offer more than thirty additional speakers who will provide resources and best practices in sustainable tourism.
:pullquote:In preparation for the Summit, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service and MTSU’s Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area just completed the second round of Sustainable Tourism Town Hall Forums February 25-27th in Pigeon Forge, Cosby, Gatlinburg, Knoxville, and Maryville. The second round of forums continued the momentum that began with the first round held last November. Commissioner Whitaker updated community leaders on plans for the Summit and Beth Phillips with UT, provided an overview of the key themes facing the gateway communities gathered from the first round of forums. Dr. Van West reviewed specific opportunities and new tourism initiatives to keep in mind when determining “What are the best sustainable tourism projects in your community?”
Also during the forums, local tourism representatives lead the discussion on sustainable tourism projects. This exchange of ideas and open dialogue in each gateway community brings added wealth and value to the Summit.
What can you expect from the Summit?
- Hear best practices and national examples of sustainable tourism from the nation’s leading experts.
- Learn various types of state and federal programs designed to assist and incentivize sustainable tourism.
- Identify specific “sustainable projects” for your community and implement a plan for community action.
- Gain the knowledge and resources in order to make a significant impact in maintaining the experience your community offers to visitors and residents.
The time to make a difference is now. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains, join us in an experience that truly will make a difference in our world. Online registration is now available; reserve your seat at the Summit today! Check out the new website for the Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Summit at www.tnvacation.com/sustainable.
Memphis Music, Sales and PR Meetings and Tradeshow Event
Tennessee Sampler 2008 is April 14-18 in Chicago. This event is just weeks away and wheels are in motion for a first-class Tennessee tourism sales and public relations mission. For all registration details, go to www.tnvacation.com/tnsampler.
“Hold the Date” announcements and tradeshow invitations were mailed to over 850 sales contacts in the Chicago region. Sales appointments will soon be scheduled with AAA offices and key travel operators. This is the perfect opportunity for Sampler participants to conduct personal meetings, answer any questions about vacationing in Tennessee, leave behind information about the state’s destinations and attractions as well as a special Tennessee gift.
The PR initiative is underway, with e-mail invitations delivered to more than 100 writers and media outlets in the Chicago area as well as “Hold The Date” announcements. Hard-copy invitations will be sent in the next few days. Media representatives are invited to hear the Tennessee tourism story at a pre-arranged luncheon or desk-side meeting and will be presented with comprehensive press materials as well as a Tennessee gift.
The media and travel representatives will be invited to sample some of the best of Tennessee by attending the finale trade show and reception event on Thursday. Guests will enjoy the opportunity to visit booths of all Tennessee tourism participants while sampling a magnificent variety of heavy hors d'oeuvres. The evening concludes with multiple drawings for free Tennessee vacations and a spectacular musical concert.
Chicago is often envied for its cool jazz and hot blues. So, this year’s reception will illustrate the electrifying blues and soulful jazz that originated in Memphis and is still thriving today. Entertaining our new found Chicago-area friends will be A-440, a Beale Street musical favorite. This group has performed with some of the biggest legends in music history, including James Brown, Al Green, Rufus Thomas and B.B. King. A-440 is the perfect match for our Sampler 2008 guests.
Sign up NOW at www.tnvacation.com/tnsampler to be a part of The Tennessee Sampler in Chicago. Registration deadline is March 24th. Tennessee Sampler…the stage is set for you.
Tourism Hosts Students for Job Shadow Day
"Tourism is Cool!" those are the words of ninth grader Miguel Soto who shadowed Tennessee Tourism senior writer Jennifer Littlejohn throughout the morning in February. Miguel was part of a team of three students from Big Picture High School in Nashville who participated in the Junior Achievement Job Shadowing Day Project.
Other students, Tyrell Jones and Grant Gill, both discovered the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development to be an exciting place to work. Grant said, "I am surprised about how much creativity is involved in tourism." Both Grant and Miguel worked with Jennifer and Tara Leurs in the news bureau. They reviewed articles and learned about what goes on behind-the-scenes when working with media to garner additional coverage on Tennessee. They also received a sneak peak of our new advertising campaign. It showed them how PR, advertising and marketing are intertwined.
:pullquote: Tyrell, who has plans to become an engineer, worked with the staff in Information Technology. He discussed systems, processes and the interworking of hard drive mechanisms. In fact, Tyrell was part of a discussion concerning one of the Welcome Center computers, and helped to provide the solution. It worked.
During the wrap-up session, the students reviewed the department's Web site, commercials and the education video and provided constructive feedback. The general consensus was that the department's Web site was extremely impressive with good content and imagery. The students discovered for themselves that Tennessee is an exciting place and they are going to spread the word about the industry and a career in tourism.
The Job Shadow Day project allowed for more than 1,000 middle and high school students to be placed in area businesses to shadow professionals. Tourism staff members said it was a great experience for them to interact with these young students and to learn from them. The department's participation is part of its Education Initiative, which has been developed to make the public more aware of the industry, participate with the education profession and to provide information on careers in the industry.
Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, Ed.D., who supervises the Initiative said, "I was thrilled to host the students in our department so that they would be exposed to this industry. Now that they are informed, they could very well be ready for a career in tourism."
Enthusiastic Response to Tennessee Civil War Trails Initiative!
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development held six “Tennessee Civil War Trails” meetings across the state February 12- 14 in Greeneville, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, Clarksville, Memphis and Parker’s Crossroads. The meetings featured Mitch Bowman, Executive Director of Civil War Trails, Inc, and provided comprehensive information and encouraged unanimous participation. Representatives from the TN Historical Commission and the TN Civil War National Heritage Area were also in attendance as part of facilitating this federally funded 80/20 match program.
Bowman and the tourism representatives experienced enthusiastic support, including several locations committing to multiple Civil War markers. In Clarksville, one gentleman said he had 42 sites ready to go! The citizens of Tennessee are clearly ready to jump on board and make known the stories that exist in their own backyards. It is anticipated that the first markers will be in place by late spring. At that time, TN Civil War Trails Web site will go live at www.civilwartrails.org
If you have any Civil War-related events coming up, please email Don Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org to be included on the Civil War Traveler Web site.
For more information on the program, contact Noell Rembert, Civil War Heritage Coordinator, at 615-532-8077 or Noell.Rembert@state.tn.us, or Lee Curtis, Director of Program Development, at 615-741-9045 or Lee.Curtis@state.tn.us.
Scholarship Opportunities Announced for Tennessee Tourism Professionals
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, together with Official Tennessee State Vacation Guide publisher Miles Media, will be offering two full scholarships to the Certified Tennessee Tourism Professional (CTTP) program.
The Certified Tennessee Tourism Professional (CTTP) program has been developed to assist individuals working in the Tennessee tourism industry to: receive recognition for hard work and professional status; demonstrate leadership and commitment to Tennessee's tourism industry; pursue higher-level career opportunities; gain a new level of respect from peers, customers and the general public; and to develop a network of professional contacts. CTTP Courses will be taught at a 3-day CTTP College by instructors affiliated with the University of Tennessee Tourism Institute. The 2008 class sessions will be held March 18 – 20, 2008 at Montgomery Bell State Park, Burns, TN. The Tennessee Department of Tourism Development and Miles Media Group will award two scholarships, inclusive of courses and course materials, to applicants with demonstrated need and professional credibility. For an application, please contact Mary Steadman, Mary.Steadman@MilesMedia.com. For more information on the CTTP College visit www.tenntourismroundtable.com/cttp/cttpprograminformation.html.
Miles Media also helped to underwrite the 2008 Certified Tennessee Tourism Professional program. Their support has allowed TTR to offer the program at a reasonable registration cost for all participants.
Scott Templeton, Miles Media Group Southeast U.S. Regional Publisher, says, “We are very excited to provide individuals in the Tennessee tourism industry with an opportunity for professional growth, exchange of ideas and networking with their peers in the Tennessee and Southeast tourism communities.”
Miles Media is the publisher of the Official Tennessee State Vacation Guide.
Tennessee Tourism ABA Dinner Shines
Once again, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development hosted a dinner during the American Bus Association's Annual Marketplace. The event was designed to show appreciation to tour operators for continuing to bring groups to Tennessee. This year's dinner was held at Alexander's on The Bay and more than 150 tour operators and Tennessee industry partners were in attendance.
Facts & Trends
CTTP College is scheduled for March 18-20 at Montgomery Bell State Park. It is full of exciting learning opportunities. Students who complete the session will earn their certification and receive their Certified Tennessee Tourism Professional Certificate (CTTP) at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in September.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS for The Governor’s Conference on Tourism
The Governor’s Conference on Tourism will be held Sept. 24-26 in Gatlinburg. Visit the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable Web site for details, Tenntourismroundtable.com.
TDOT to Close Part of I-40 in May
In less than three months, the Tennessee Department of Transportation plans to close a segment of Interstate 40 in downtown Knoxville. That section of roadway will be closed for 14 months. On May 1, a short section of I-40 located between James White Parkway (exit 388) and Hall of Fame Drive (exit 389) will close for reconstruction as part of the final phase of the SmartFIX40 project. This closure will allow around-the-clock work without any traffic interruptions. The project will be completed on or before June 30, 2009, and will save almost 23 months of construction time.
Scenic Byways Grants Deadline Near
The National Scenic Byways Program, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, is now accepting applications for grants through the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The deadline is Tuesday, April 1. Applications must be submitted to TDOT electronically. Once reviewed by state officials and approved the grants are forwarded to the national office. Tennessee has two national Scenic Byways, the Cherohala Skyway and the Natchez Trace, but other scenic byways are part of the state system. The program is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the country. For information, contact Shawn Bible at 615-532-3488 or email her at email@example.com.
New Tnvacation.com Online Opportunity
Attention Tennessee Accommodation Industry Partners
Make your properties stand out on Tnvacation.com with a photo enhanced listing.
For more information contact:
Upper Cumberland / East Tennessee Region: Mary Steadman 423-956-4330 E-mail: Mary.Steadman@MilesMedia.com Middle / West Tennessee Region: Abbie Gristy 731-298-1003 E-mail: Abbie.Gristy@MilesMedia.com
Welcome Center Employee of the Month
Mary Bailey, a Welcome Center Assistant at the Bristol Welcome Center, is our Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for February. Mary has been with the Department of Tourist Development for 11 years.
Jim Bibee, Manager at the Bristol Welcome Center, had these comments about Mary: "Mary is so nice and kind to everyone. I have never known anyone as patient and easy going as Mary. Visitors passing through the Center are treated with true Southern Hospitality. Hard-working and energetic are words to describe her. It is a pleasure to work with her. Mary's knowledge of the state and reservation skills helped to make Bristol the 2007 Welcome Center of the Year."
Regional Manager Laura Munn also has a good story about Mary. "At a different location I was helping a gentleman who said he usually enters the state from I-81 and frequently stopped at the Bristol Welcome Center. He stopped by a lot due to his wife's need for regular medical care in Nashville. He was quick to tell me about how nice the Center was, but also how helpful and compassionate Mary had been (he knew her by name). The extra time and concern shown by Mary to this man's wife was a great reflection on our State."
Please congratulate Mary on a job well done and for being named the February Welcome Center Employee of the Month!
Pigeon Forge Tops Motor Coach List for 2nd Consecutive Year
For the second year in a row National Motorcoach Network named Pigeon Forge, Tenn., the “Top Motorcoach Destination of the Year.” This Great Smoky Mountains resort town shares the 2008 title with Washington, D.C., after having the title to itself in 2007. That year, it leaped from #14 to #1. In addition, Nashville was named the #6 destination, Tennessee as the #2 Motorcoach State, The Top 10 Man-Made Attractions list included Grand Ole Opry - #4, Graceland - #5 and Dollywood - #7. The rankings are not a popularity poll, but rather a report on where the tour operators expect to take tours this year, and were announced in the association’s Byways Magazine.
Polk Home Receives State Funding
The James K. Polk Home received more than $12,500 in grants to assist in renovating a new wing — the Polk Presidential Hall. The funds were awarded through the Tennessee Community Enhancement Grants program. In a ceremony on Columbia’s public square Polk Home Director John Holtzapple said the funding will help renovate the facility and ensure its future use as a community education and exhibition hall.
Quilting Association Selects Knoxville
Officials made the announcement that the American Quilter’s Society has signed a three-year commitment to hold its annual conventions in Knoxville. Beginning in 2009, the American Quilter's Society will bring more than 10,000 people a year to downtown and the Knoxville Convention Center. Gloria Ray, president and CEO of the Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corp., said the conventions will mean about $45 million to the city over the three years.
Festival Works Toward Diversity
Every year the organizers of the Rivers & Spires Festival look for ways to improve the festival. For 2008, the festival in downtown Clarksville, is adding diversity both in the attractions and the target audience. The festival's Web site at www.riversandspires.com will be translated into Spanish to create a broad message.
Bohan Lands Emmy Award for Tourism Work
A tourism commercial produced by BOHAN Advertising | Marketing for the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism earned an Emmy Award in the annual competition of the Nashville/Midsouth Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Emmy Awards are recognized as television’s highest honor.
PBS Airs “The Clinton 12”
East Tennessee Public Television premiered the award-winning documentary film “The Clinton 12” narrated by James Earl Jones, also being broadcast on nearly 200 PBS stations across the country. “The Clinton 12” tells the story of the integration of the first public high school in the South after the historic 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. the Board of Education. This powerfully-told story shows the courage and determination of 12 black teenagers in Clinton, TN and the community that stood with them to uphold the law. Written and Directed by Oak Ridge Filmmaker Keith McDaniel, “The Clinton 12” has won 15 awards including the Nashville Public Television Human Spirit Award.
Tennessee Elvis License Plate
Tennessee Unveils Elvis License Plate
The official Elvis Presley Tennessee license plate was unveiled at a Graceland ceremony following a classic car rally at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis. Proceeds from the sale of the plate will benefit the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center at The Med and The Med Foundation. The first license plate, #(EP)000, has been placed on Elvis’ first Rolls Royce and will become part of Graceland’s permanent collection.
Meadowview Named “Best and More”
The MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort and Convention Center in Johnson City has garnered four “Bests” from the North American Lodging Organization (NALO). The venue earned, “Best in Class” for guest satisfaction, problems experienced, spirit to serve/service and food quality. The facility also received the Top Operations of Excellence Award for the second time in three years.
Marketing Sherpa Awards Tennessee Tourism
The Department of Tourism has garnered the “Best Triggered Personalized Email” from Marketing Sherpa for the “License to Ride with Elvis” email, part of TDTD’s viral marketing campaign. The winning email is the automatic response people receive once they have taken a ride with Elvis or Dolly. It is in the motif of a driver’s license, including the person’s name and photograph. Marketing Sherpa a widely respected authority on online marketing one of the leading results-oriented organizations, reporting and rewarding companies for RESULTS, not just creativity. The email was created by Paramore-Redd of Nashville with technical development by Designsensory of Knoxville.
Chattanooga cited as “Green” Vacation Destination
Chattanooga has been listed as one of four sites as a “Go Green” vacation destination. Featured on the CBS network’s The Early Show, Plenty magazine Editor Jessica Tzerman gave details on Chattanooga and the other sites for a environmentally-friendly place to visit. Tzerman stated that the city was “A walk-able and bike-friendly city’ very oriented, with local markets.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You