Dear Tourism Partners,
May, with its warming temperatures and school graduations, marks the beginning of vacation time in Tennessee. Despite the tough economy, current research from the U.S. Travel Association shows that millions of people across the country are still making vacation plans, and taking additional time to find just the right destinations for their trips.
Looking to maximize their dollars, people will be using our advertising, news stories, websites and social media outlets to gather all the particulars on our individual destinations and attractions. It is especially important that our tourism websites stay current and freshly updated. Keep in mind that people are specifically 'searching' for vacation specials and discounts. Also, don't forget to keep your partner pages current on the department's website, tnvacation.com. If you're not sure how to do this, let us know and we'll help you make the necessary changes. We want to get the 'latest' word out on your great destination.
Though many of us are clearly focused on our budgets, planning to make the best possible decisions with the available funding, we must be equally focused on providing our guests with the best possible experiences. We have great attractions, destinations and events here in Tennessee, and we have been getting the word out about them in a consistent, creative way. The most important part of the equation is ensuring that our visitors have a warm, wonderful welcome when they arrive and a terrific time while they are here with us. We want all those 'twitters' out there to be positive, 'don't miss Tennessee', messages.
:pullquote:May is also the annual celebration of National Travel and Tourism Week, May 9 - 17. Throughout the state, our outstanding Welcome Centers will be holding special regional celebrations, hosting events every day in cooperation with our area partners. Each of these are meant to bring focus to the importance of tourism in Tennessee as well as the nation.
The dollars tourists spend in Tennessee support the local communities they visit through direct spending of more than $14.2 billion. The $1 billion in state and local tax dollars generated from tourism fund essential services such as education and health care throughout all 95 counties.
Tourism matters in Tennessee, and we prove it every day with the experiences our tourism professionals provide for travelers and the economic impact they provide for their own hometowns. Thank you for making such a huge difference in the quality of life for Tennesseans!
Let me leave with you with a quote I read in, of all places, Golf Magazine. I don't golf, I can't even break par in putt-putt, but I will read just about anything if it's in front of me. The article was about Sir Charles Barkley, one of basketball's most unusual characters, and his errant golf swing which he is fervently, but so far unsuccessfully, trying to fix. The author made the statement, "The trick is this: You have to find a way to take your mind off what might happen, and pay attention to what is happening."
There's a message in that for all of us. We can't let an uncertain future keep our minds from focusing on what we can do right now to be successful. We need to stay informed, watch trends and build for the future, but we cannot allow fear to disrupt our current game plans for success, one customer at a time.
Each of you in the tourism industry helps provide the fun, the memories and that oh-so-needed break for each one of our visiting guests. Perhaps today, more than any other time in recent history, we have the opportunity to really make a difference in their lives. Let your caring spirit touch them with that unique Tennessee hospitality that has touched millions of others, myself included. They're bound to be back - I'm proof of that!
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
26th Annual National Tourism Week
“Discover Great American Traditions in Tennessee”
The U.S. Travel Association selected “Discover Great American Traditions” as the theme for the 26th annual National Tourism Week, May 9 – 17. To coincide with the national celebration, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development has established the theme, “Discover Great American Traditions in Tennessee.” The goal is to enhance the country’s economy and perception, and recognize the cultural and social benefits created by travel and tourism.
All of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s 13 welcome centers invite their Tennessee tourism partners to join in extending Tennessee hospitality to travelers visiting the centers. This is an opportunity to connect with travelers, while providing promotional information, refreshments, and product giveaways pertaining to local attractions or communities.
Plan to stop at the Memphis Welcome Center, and meet a park ranger from T.O. Fuller State Park, as well as a few of his feathered friends.
The Mitchellville Welcome Center will feature partners such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Sumner County Chamber of Commerce, Dixie Stampede and Portland Chamber of Commerce.
Meet tourism partners from the International Tow Truck Museum, Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Mayfield Dairy at the Chattanooga Welcome Center.
:pullquote:The Nashville Attractions Coalition is sponsoring a travel Expo from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., May 8 – 9, at Opry Mills. The expo coincides with National Tourism Week by showcasing attractions, restaurants, entertainment venues and hotels from across Tennessee to travel professionals and consumers. The expo will also feature entertainment throughout the day on Center Stage in Opry Mills.
To further highlight National Tourism Week, destinations nationwide are signing up for U.S. Travel Rally Day, May 12. The U.S. Travel Association will announce the $5,000 winner of the National Faces of Travel Contest.
National Tourism Week was established in 1983 when the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution designating the week to be celebrated in May 1984. In a White House ceremony, President Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Proclamation urging citizens to observe the week with “the appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
National Tourism Week is the right time to help those in Tennessee communities and travelers understand the life-long benefits of enjoying the state’s attractions, as well as the cultural and natural resources. From monuments and buildings to landscapes and main streets, discover great American traditions in Tennessee.
Welcome Centers: The Face of Tennessee Tourism
The 26th Annual National Travel and Tourism Week is May 9-17, 2009 and the statewide theme is “Discover Great American Traditions in Tennessee.” Tennessee traditions encompass a broad combination of pleasures: fast and fun, wet and wild, musical and dramatic, natural and man-made, rugged and relaxing, cultural and historical, delicious and divine…just to name a few.
During Travel and Tourism Week, Tennessee’s 13 Welcome Centers will be sharing samples of these traditions with travelers as area tourism bureaus, attractions, parks, cultural organizations, arts and crafts communities and hospitality providers participate in the promotion.
Year-round, these centers represent the “front porch” to our traditions, with a staff on hand to greet and assist.
As the travel season begins to escalate, representatives from numerous centers are optimistic about the present state of this season’s visitor:
“Travelers are in a more festive mood than last year,” says Charles Webb, the centers’ Southeast Regional Manager. “They seem to be happier travelers.” He also believes that more people are traveling together.
“Travelers are looking to make the best of what they have to spend,” says Laura Munn, the Northeast Regional Manager. “Increased requests for coupons and special promotions too.”
:pullquote:Munn also noted that more and more are using high tech travel tools, such as internet directions and GPS systems. “However they want confirmation that the information is correct,” Munn continues. “We find lots of mistakes. They look to us for assurance.”
Jan Elliot, Manager of the Chattanooga center says, “More travelers are requesting information on scenic drives and back-road activities such as quilt trails. In addition to heavy requests for Chattanooga info, retirees are asking for ideas on where to relocate or build a second home.”Janice Rich, manager of the Ardmore Center says she cannot keep enough of the Civil War brochures in stock. She has also noted an increase in the number of people who enjoy tracing their ancestral history.
Tennessee’s outdoor tradition, among others, is really shining in West Tennessee. “We’re getting a lot of questions right now about hunting and fishing,” says George Stewart of the Memphis I-40 center. He says a lot of people are also thinking about Memphis in May. Over at the Memphis I-55 center, hostess Gloria Guy says things are picking up there right now, with information requests about Graceland, National Civil Rights Museum and Memphis Zoo.
A good host/hostess can play a key role in the economic growth of a region. Some travelers are just passing through, and are looking for an overnight stay. The staff will often suggest additional activities and reasons to spend an extra night. A welcome center may carry 500 different brochures, so keeping them up to date with the information partners want travelers to know is vital.
But the one thing a welcome center host/hostess hates the most? “A question we can’t answer,” says Laura Munn. “Every time a traveler comes through our doors, it’s another opportunity to bring ‘em back.”
Janice Rich thinks like all of us who know our Tennessee traditions. “From the flat-lands…to the rolling hills…to the mountains…why go anywhere else?”
National Speakers Highlight 2009 Governor’s Conference on Tourism
Mark your calendar now for September 16-18 Event in Murfreesboro
Two nationally recognized travel industry leaders will be speaking at the 2009 Governor's Conference on Tourism which will be held September 16-18 at the beautiful new Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in Murfreesboro.
Roger Dow, President and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Travel Association, will be speaking on the power of travel and the need to unify travel and tourism as "one industry with one voice." He will also address the challenges facing our industry and how we in Tennessee can most effectively advocate those policies that unleash travel and tourism's fullest economic potential.
Dr. Suzanne Cook
Also speaking to the conference will be Dr. Suzanne Cook, Senior Vice President of Research for the U.S. Travel Association and a highly sought-after speaker at industry conferences specializing in consumer marketing research related to travel and tourism. Dr. Cook will be sharing preliminary data regarding the effects of the economy on tourism during the 2009 travel season and forecasts for the 2010 season.
"The Tennessee tourism industry and TTR are exceptionally fortunate to have two such prominent travel industry figures speaking at the 2009 conference. Special thanks to Tennessee Department of Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker for securing these outstanding individuals for us," said John Whisenant, executive director of TTR.
Additional information on the Conference, including seminar topics, social events, housing, and registration will be available on the TTR Web site in late May.
Sustainable Tourism Workshop
The first Sustainable Tourism Workshop will take place from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., May 14, at The Factory in Franklin, Tenn. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will host four free workshops about sustainable tourism throughout 2009. Sustainable tourism is defined as the commitment to sustaining our environment, history and culture, while simultaneously sustaining economic growth through tourism.
Ray Burger, founder and president of Pineapple Hospitality, Inc., is the keynote speaker and will discuss “The ‘C’s’ of Green.” Known as the “Green Guru,” Burger has over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry. His company’s EcoRooms and EcoSuites Web site certifies the greenest hotels and defines what it means to be a green hotel.
“Hotels that have positioned themselves as ‘green’ will have a heads-up on the competition from both an operations and consumer perspective,” said Burger. “Travelers are becoming increasingly aware of their environmental impact. More so, hotels that have gone green have discovered significant savings – demonstrating that going green will keep you in the black.”
Each sustainable workshop will target the hospitality and tourism industry, providing sustainable tourism resources, case studies, best practices and access to leading experts in this important arena.
“Sustainable tourism is one of the tourism industry’s most important issues,” said Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker. “It’s a call to stewardship of Tennessee’s natural beauty and rich heritage, which is fundamental to good business. Getting this message out to all of our stakeholders will keep tourism thriving in Tennessee for generations to come.”
All community leaders are encouraged to attend the free Sustainable Tourism Workshops including tourism business owners and management, city and county government officials, Chambers and Convention & Visitors Bureaus leadership, lodging and restaurant industry owners and management, and any tourism partner or individual interested in green and sustainable tourism practices.
“Sustainability can benefit our local communities, the environment and the bottom line,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke. “From energy conservation initiatives to recycling and waste reduction to LEED certification for new state park cabins, the state of Tennessee is leading by example, and we’re pleased to share that experience with others in the tourism industry.”
The one-day workshops will take place, as follows, from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.:
May 14 - Franklin – The Factory
June 16 - Baxter – DelMonaco Winery and Vineyards
Nov. 16 – Jackson – Casey Jones Village
Nov. 17 – Memphis – Pink Palace Museum
These workshops are an outgrowth of the state’s Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit, held April 2008 in Knoxville, Tenn.
To register or for more information, contact Patricia Gray at (615) 741-9004 or email@example.com, or contact Lee Curtis at (615) 741-9045 or Lee.Curtis@tn.gov. For a complete schedule, please visit www.tnsustainabletourism.com. There is no charge for the workshops, however space is limited.
Facts & Trends
Greenways and Trails Forum Unveils New Campaign
Tennesseans and guests can count on more than the information super-highway to connect with the people, nature, heritage and community of the state. A statewide marketing campaign, Connect with TN, was recently unveiled at the 2009 Greenway & Trails Forum in Johnson City. The campaign will showcase the 749 greenways and trails in the state, providing opportunity for walking, running, biking, hiking, horseback riding through a combination of television, radio and a new consumer Web site: ConnectWithTN.com.
Jim Kennedy provided the keynote address: “Greenways, Parks & Public Art: Stimulus Package for the Soul.” In it, Kennedy showcased Chattanooga’s efforts to sustain public spaces for the stimulation of the hearts, minds and souls of its citizens. Other topics discussed included Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) park development and marketing, the economic impact of greenways and trails on a local economy, and more.
The forum was a project of the Commissioner’s Council on Greenways and Trails of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Preserving Our Shared Cultural Heritage
Last month, heritage supporters from across the state convened in Murfreesboro for the Statewide Preservation Conference and Main Street Summit. The annual conference travels around the state and showcases the historic character of a different community each year.
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (TDTD) hosted a session to discuss and promote the TN Civil War Trails program. Panelists included Lee Curtis of TDTD, Mike Gavin of the TN Civil War National Heritage Area, Fred Prouty of the TN Wars Commission and Kaye Ireland with the Sumner Co. CVB.
Tanya Bowers, the new Director of Diversity at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, presented the keynote address: “Preserving Our Shared Cultural Heritage.”
The event was hosted by the Tennessee Preservation Trust, the Tennessee Main Street Program and the Tennessee Cultural Heritage Preservation Society. The Tennessee Historical Commission, Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Historic Preservation, and the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area also provided generous sponsorship and support.
Nashville will host the 2009 National Preservation Conference, October 13-17, 2009, sponsored by The National Trust for Historic Preservation. Information on the conference as well as the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation scholarship program is available at www.preservationnation.org/conference. Scholarship deadline is June 1.
TN Civil War Trails Expanding
The Sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War is just two short years away. More and more Tennessee cities are drawing attention to their history by participating in the TN Civil War Trails program. The state program connects with an already existing trail of driving tours in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia, making it the most successful program of its kind. The latest communities to unveil trail markers were:
Knoxville Civil War Marker
with Mayor Bill Haslam
1. Knoxville: Old Gray Cemetery, dedicated in 1852, holds the remains of both Union and Confederate sympathizers, befitting of Knoxville’s divided loyalties. Knoxville organizers plan additional markers later this year.
Lafollete Civil War Marker
2. Lafollette: Big Creek Gap is one of the few natural openings through the Cumberland Mountains. Early in the war Confederates ringed the Gap with defensive works. In 1862, Union forces used the Gap to flank Confederates and force withdrawal. Civil War fortifications still remain.
More markers will be added in June. Deadline for this round of installations is May 8th. For more information about participation requirements and grant guidelines, email your request to Lee.Curtis@tn.gov or Noell.Rembert@tn.gov or call 615.532.8077.
ARC Schedules Forums for Grant Competition
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), in partnership with the states of Kentucky and Tennessee is sponsoring a $200,000 “Gems of Appalachia” grant competition for gateway communities that are entry points to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The funding is designated to promote sustainable tourism, preserve natural resources, support locally owned businesses, encourage outdoor recreation, and celebrate their unique identity.
ARC will host three community forums to discuss sustainable projects and strategies in advance of its grant competition. Forums dates are: May 5 in Rugby; May 6 in Huntsville; and May 7 in Stearns, KY. The forums are free and open to the public. Registration is required and may be made at www.arc.gov/index.do?nodeId=30#gems or by phone at (202) 884-7767.
The competition’s request for proposals will be issued in early summer. Nonprofit organizations, local governments, public education institutions, and local and regional development organizations located in Tennessee’s Scott, Fentress, Pickett, and Morgan Counties, and in Kentucky’s McCreary, Wayne, and Whitley Counties, are eligible to apply for the grants. Grant recipients will be announced in August 2009.
2010 Tennessee Vacation Guide Advertising Sales Begin
Miles Media, publisher of the Official Tennessee Vacation Guide, has exciting plans for the 2010 edition. To find out more contact : Abbie Gristy, Middle/West Tennessee Region (731) 298-1003 email: Abbie.Gristy@milesmedia.com or Mary Steadman, Upper Cumberland and East Tennessee Region (423) 956-4330 email: Mary.Steadman@milesmedia.com
The Sommet Center in Nashville is Bringing them in.
According to the Tennessean, so far, the Sommet Center has had 92,809 fans to pay for tickets and attend concerts, making the Sommet the seventh-busiest arena in the U. S. and the 19th busiest in the world.
Our Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for April 2009 is a very special person--Queen Esther Bowles, Manager at the I-24 Marion County (Nickajack) Welcome Center. Esther will be retiring next month with 30+ years of State of Tennessee service with more than 20 years with the Department of Tourist Development.
Here are excerpts from a letter we recently received from a traveler that describes the kind of person Esther is:
"I would like to express my deepest appreciation to your staff at Nickajack Welcome Center and make you aware of their outstanding service. During a recent trip...I became very ill. I make this trip several times during the year and have become fond of stopping at Nickajack. This trip is living proof there are still caring...people out there to come to one's aid in time of trouble....Within minutes...(welcome center staff and) manager Esther Bowles assisted me and eventually called an ambulance to get me medical help. When Esther completed her shift she came to the emergency room to check on me and stayed with me. Esther...would not accept anything for her kindness....Not only my life has been touched by their acts of kindness but also many other lives. It is truly rewarding to know there are individuals who are not afraid to get involved and help their fellow man. I hope they will be recognized for their outstanding service to the public. I remain grateful for these...angels in disguise."
"Esther, we recognize you and thank you for your many years of outstanding State service, and it is our hope that you have a long and enjoyable retirement, said Barry Young, director of the Welcome Centers.
Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.
Clingman’s Dome Event Draws Crowd
Governor Phil Bredesen and Commissioner Susan Whitaker were on hand at Clingman’s Dome for the Governor's Proclamation Ceremony held in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The event commemorated the Park's 75th anniversary and recognized the important role that local citizens, community leaders, state legislators and governors played in establishing the park. Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson acknowledged the sacrifice of those who gave up their homeland as well as the need to preserve and protect the resources of the Park's half-a-million acres.
Bristol Chamber of Commerce
Bristol Chamber Unveils 100th Anniversary Icon
Construction activity taking place at the front corner of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce caused quite a stir until officials unveiled a 20-foot guitar that will commemorate the organization's 100-year anniversary, as well as serve as a gateway to tourism in the region. The guitar certainly will be visible. According to recent traffic counts released by the City of Bristol, TN, more than 10 million vehicles pass through the intersection of State Street and Volunteer Parkway each year, the corner where the Chamber offices are located. The design responds to a rich musical history with a folk art air to embody the unique cultural heritage of the City of Bristol. It's an icon, a beacon for tourism, and an identifier for Bristol, but the fact remains that Bristol's new 20-foot guitar is, above all, an inspired work of art.
David Crockett State Park
Cabins to Lure More Visitors
Each year, David Crockett State Park attracts thousands of people to southern Tennessee. State and county officials have been working for years on improvements at David Crockett State Park in Lawrenceburg. Construction is now under way on seven 1,000-square-foot cabins at the state park. The cabins, which will sleep eight, should be completed by early 2010. The park, which is just off U.S. 64, has been a hotbed of tourism since it opened in 1969, offering more than 100 campsites, picnic facilities, swimming, boating, biking and fishing opportunities, and a restaurant offering a breathtaking view of Shoal Creek. The park averages about 625,000 visitors a year and with the additions of the cabins, that number is expected to grow.
Crowne Plaza Knoxville Ranked World’s No. 2 Hotel in Customer Satisfaction
For the 12 months ending in March 2009, the Crowne Plaza Knoxville ranked as the world’s No. 2 Crowne Plaza Hotel in overall customer satisfaction. The results are based on a rolling average of customer satisfaction scores based on customer ratings of meeting facilities of the world’s 129 Crowne Plaza hotels.
Zoo’s Conservation Efforts Honored
The International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators presented Nashville Zoo with the 2009 Conservation Award as well as a $500 donation. The award recognizes IAATE members’ avian conservation efforts in the field as well as in zoos and other avian facilities. The Zoo’s Friends of Animals at Nashville Zoo Club received the award for their support of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation in 2008. Conservation Award applicants are evaluated on the: project’s impact on avian conservation, extent of IAATE involvement, use of creative or innovative methods, and sustainability of the conservation effort.
Appalachian Ghostwalks Receives 2009 Best of Jonesborough Award
For the second consecutive year, Appalachian Ghostwalks has been selected for the 2009 Award in the Tour Operators & Promoters category - "Best of Jonesborough" by the U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA). The USLBA "Best of Local Business" Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USLBA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category.
5 Star Resort Chef Joins Chattanooga Convention Center
The Chattanooga Convention Center is pleased to announce that Keith Quatrano has joined their culinary team as the new Executive Chef. Quatrano joins the Convention Center as a hospitality veteran, with over 25 years in the industry. Before coming to Chattanooga, Quatrano was the Food & Beverage Director of the Intercontinental Hotel at the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri for the past three years.
Ryman Auditorium, Nashville
Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium Is Named "Venue Of The Year"
Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium has been named Venue of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. The award was voted on by the Academy's professional members and is part of the Industry Awards category which recognizes contributions to the success and longevity of country music. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001, the Ryman has an impressive country music pedigree. Originally built as a revival hall in 1892, by the turn of the century the Ryman was one of the south's premier venues for music and theater.
SmarterTravel.com Selects Memphis Among Top Five Award Destinations for April
Trying to use all those frequent flyer miles? If you know where to look, the airlines will help you choose flights with seats readily accessible to mileage program members. In response to the outcry from mileage collectors frustrated by the lack of available award seats, the airlines are attempting to steer program members in the direction of flights which are good prospects for would-be award travelers. There are some real gems. SmarterTravel.com lists five award destinations the airlines promoted that merit special attention and are well worth your miles. The featured award destination for April was Memphis, which appears on the hot lists of both American and United Airlines.
Secret City Festival Receives Award for Best Volunteer for 2009 at IFEA Regional Conference
The Annual Southeast Festivals & Events Conference was held this year in Knoxville. During the awards program, top festivals and events throughout the southeast were recognized for their outstanding contribution to the festivals and events industry by receiving the prestigious Kaleidoscope Award. Among the winners was the Secret City Festival. Mike Bradshaw, a volunteer of the festival since its inception, was honored with the Silver Kaleidoscope Award for Best Volunteer of the Year for 2008 for his many years of hard work and dedication to the event.
Dyer Observatory and RiverView Mounds Added to Historic Register
Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The observatory, which was built in 1953 off Hillsboro Road in southern Davidson County, was designed by Chattanooga architects and amateur astronomers Clarence T. and R. Bruce Jones. The facility continues to be used by Vanderbilt for research and public outreach.
RiverView Mounds Archaeological Site, a century-old agri-tourism farm owned by Chris Rinehart and his wife, Scarlett Mulligan is located in Montgomery County. RiverView Mounds is a 25-acre Mississippian period mound complex that is part of a large farm. The site includes two mounds, one is a mortuary mound and the other is a flat-top substructure, with stone box cemeteries.
National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis
Civil Rights Museum to host prestigious conference
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis will host the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience Conference, June 26-27 2009. This is the first time the event will be held in the United States.
Sites of Conscience are locations where tragic civil or human rights events have occurred and these sites have been transformed to educational, inspirational or sites to honor the lessons learned.
Visiting countries scheduled to participate include: Chile, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Senegal, Argentina and United States.
Quote of the Month
You have to count on living every single day in a way you believe will make you feel good about your life--so that if it were over tomorrow, you'd be content with yourself.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You