This is not an easy letter to write. The past few days in parts of Tennessee have been very difficult. May 1st and 2nd saw record-breaking rains for much of Middle and parts of West Tennessee. The flooding that resulted has caused heart-breaking circumstances for many of the citizens of our state.
Some of our friends and partners in tourism are faced with serious property damage. Let me encourage all of us to support each other with thoughts, prayers and hands-on assistance during the days and weeks ahead. To volunteer in Nashville, go to www.hon.org, or check websites for individual partners. For other locations, such as Clarksville, Franklin, Sumner County, Lebanon, and other hard-hit areas, please visit the local Chamber and/or CVB website.
:pullquote:This position has given me the privilege of getting to know so many of the people in this amazing industry. You are individuals of incredible resilience, creativity and determination, succeeding even during very tough economic times. For this reason, I know that those tourism businesses that have been affected by this disaster will be back soon, hosting and entertaining millions of visitors, and enjoying economic growth again. In fact, the Grand Ole Opry made sure the 'Show must go on!' and somehow made Opry magic happen Tuesday night, (May 4) for an enthusiastic audience despite major obstacles and a last-minute venue change. Wow! That's what I'm talking about - you all rock!
For all of our partners, we are here to help wherever we can.
I do want to report that other major tourism destinations, including Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville, the Smoky Mountains and Northeast Tennessee, are without incident and 100 percent open for business.
It is especially important news as we participate in National Travel and Tourism Week, May 8-16. The week-long event presents us all with a great opportunity to join with state and local destinations throughout the entire country to recognize and celebrate the economic and employment importance of tourism, now more than ever. In Tennessee, tourism is a $14.4 billion industry, employing thousands of individuals throughout the state and providing outstanding vacation experiences for 50 million visitors annually. Even during these challenging economic times, Tennessee’s industry has held its own.
As I shared with you last month, we are very pleased to announce the grand opening of our brand new Welcome Center in Unicoi County on Interstate 26. This is the first new Welcome Center location in more than 14 years. If you’re in the area, please join us at 1 p.m. on May 14 for the official Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting. Our welcome centers serve as the front porch to greet our interstate traveling public and this new site will be another center full of gracious Tennessee hospitality.
Also, as a reminder, The Sunny Side Trail & Byway in East Tennessee will launch with two days of activities on May 13 and 14. For details, see the full story in this edition of the e-newsletter. The Nashville’s Trace Trail & Byway launch, announced in last month’s newsletter, has been postponed. We will announce the date for that event as soon as possible.
Thank you for all you do. It is truly an honor to be a part of Tennessee tourism, especially during times like these. God bless each of you. You certainly are a blessing to me.
My heartfelt thanks,
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Tennessee Tourism Responds to Midstate Flooding
On May 1 and 2, the city of Nashville and some of the surrounding cities and counties in Tennessee experienced record-breaking rains. While the overall impact of this weekend’s weather has not been fully assessed, some of Nashville’s popular attractions have sustained flood damage and will be closed for several weeks. However, many of Nashville’s attractions, restaurants, hotels and historic sites remain open for business.
In addition, travelers to other major Tennessee tourism destinations, including Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville, the Smoky Mountains and Northeast Tennessee, will find these locations without incident and 100% operational.
It is recommended that visitors planning a trip to Middle Tennessee check the website of the individual attractions, as well as the lodging facility, for continuous updates. For Nashville specific information, check visitmusiccity.com for the latest info and hotel information, or call (615) 259-4747 or (800) 657-6910. You can also check updated postings for the Nashville area on facebook or twitter. For road closures and to plan trip routes, use the Department of Transportation Web site. Click here for the Smartway TDOT map of road conditions.
National Tourism Week
To celebrate tourism’s tremendous economic, social and cultural impact throughout the state of Tennessee and the country, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development will participate with the U.S. Travel Association in the 2010 National Travel and Tourism Week, May 8-16. This year’s theme is “Stand Up and Be Counted,” as cities and travel businesses nationwide rally in support of the industry’s impact on local communities and states.
On May 14, in recognition of National Travel and Tourism Week, The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development will host a grand opening of the state’s newest welcome center, Unicoi County Welcome Center on Interstate 26 near Erwin. In addition, the state takes advantage of the celebration of the travel and tourism week with the launch of the Sunny Side Trail, the second trail to be launched in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program. Events surrounding this launch will be held in Sevierville on May 13 and in Greeneville and Bristol on May 14.
:pullquote:Tennessee’s welcome centers will also be an important part of helping celebrate National Tourism Week, hosting special events that represent the unique attractions in their areas. Representatives and mascots from popular sites will greet travelers at select welcome centers with a variety of refreshments, brochures, coupons, local music and Tennessee hospitality.
In recognition of the nationwide salute to travel and tourism, make plans to meet tourism partners from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Dixie Stampede, state parks and more.
Tourism organizations in Nashville and Knoxville are teaming up with regional shopping malls to showcase area attractions to local residents and tour operators. Join local tourism professionals in Memphis for their “The Faces of Memphis Tourism” celebration, including a parade down Beale Street, a community cleanup and more.
Commissioner Susan Whitaker states, “Tennessee Tourism has hit the jackpot with new attractions and expansions of current attractions for 2010.”
Tennessee’s “What’s New and Expanded List” is impressive. Among the highlights are
Titanic Pigeon Forge, Elvis’s 75th Celebration, Dollywood’s 25th Celebration, Grand Ole Opry’s Country Classics, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Penguin Exhibit, Memphis Zoo’s Teton Trek Exhibit, Nashville Shores Wave Pool and Lazy River Expansion, and much, much more.
Tennessee tourism generates a $14.4 billion economic impact and is the No.1 non-farm industry in Tennessee. Tourism provides more than 180,000 jobs in Tennessee and welcomes close to 50 million visitors annually.
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.”
Sunny Side Trail to Launch with Multiple Events
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development announces the launch of the Sunny Side Trail, the second trail to officially open in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways statewide program. The launch will be celebrated May 13 and 14 with three special events.
The kick-off event at 10:30 a.m. May 13 will be at Sevierville’s Robert Tino Gallery
Other launch events will be held at 10 a.m. May 14 at General Morgan Inn and Conference Center in Greeneville and at 3 p.m. at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The Sunny Side Trail will highlight more than 330 significant tourism sites, promoting Sevier, Cocke, Greene, Washington, Unicoi, Carter, Johnson, Sullivan, Hawkins, Hancock, Hamblen and Jefferson counties.
Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways is a statewide initiative encompassing all 95 counties along 16 regional trails, and featuring Tennessee's five National Scenic Byways.
In addition to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Department of Transportation, state agencies participating in the trails program include the Departments of Economic and Community Development, Environment and Conservation, and Agriculture.
New Welcome Center
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Tennessee Department of Transportation will host a Grand Opening and Media Event at Tennessee’s newly completed I-26 Welcome Center in Unicoi County at 1 p.m. on May 14. This celebration unveils the brand new facility, the first-ever welcome center in the area.
Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Commissioner Gerald Nicely, Tennessee Department of Transportation, along with state and local dignitaries, will be on hand to bring remarks and officially open the center with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Regional tourism organizations will also be exhibiting during the event to meet travelers and provide tourism information.
Designed as a log cabin, the facility combines the warmth of Tennessee with the modern advantage of new construction. The I-26 Welcome Center in Unicoi County can be accessed via both eastbound and westbound lanes. There are 13 other Welcome Centers located primarily on interstate highway entrances to Tennessee.
Tennessee’s Welcome Centers provide visitors the perfect combination of Tennessee warmth and hospitality. The Welcome Center employees are dedicated to making a great first impression to the 15 million guests each year.
Tennessee’s Welcome Centers are constructed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and are operated by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
Governor’s Conference on Tourism to Highlight Northeast Tennessee
Plans are well under way for the 2010 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which will be held September 22-24 at the beautiful MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort and Convention Center in Kingsport, Tennessee.
“We are delighted to be hosting the Governor’s Conference in Northeast Tennessee this year,” said Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association (NETTA) Chief Executive Officer and current Tennessee Tourism Roundtable Chair Claudia Moody. “It’s been several years since the conference has been held here, and we’re going to be pulling out all the stops to showcase the region to our tourism friends from across the state.”
That sentiment was echoed by Jud Teague, Executive Director of the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It is both a thrill and privilege to be hosting the Governor’s Conference in Kingsport this year. There have been so many exciting changes and additions to our city since the last time the Governor’s Conference was held here, and we can’t wait for people to experience all that our region has to offer.”
The entire Northeast Tennessee region is assisting in planning and hosting the conference. In addition to the staff of NETTA and the Kingsport CVB, the host planning committee includes representatives from the Bristol CVB, Elizabethton/Carter County Tourism Development Council, Greene County Partnership Tourism Department, Johnson City CVB, Historic Jonesborough Tourism Department, Rogersville/Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce, Sullivan County Department of Archives and Tourism, and the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce. “This is genuinely a regional effort,” continued Moody. “Everyone is really pulling together to plan a truly unique event.”
An example of this regional approach is the conference opening night “Diggin’, Drivin’, and Dinin’” event. Conference attendees will be motorcoached from MeadowView to the Natural History Museum and Gray Fossil Site in Johnson City, where participants will enjoy a wonderful reception while touring the fascinating exhibits and doing a little archeological digging on their own! From there, attendees will travel on to the incredible 160,000-seat “World’s Fastest Half Mile” Bristol Motor Speedway for dinner and several unique racing experiences planned just for the Governor’s Conference!
The theme for this year’s conference, “The SunnySide of Tourism” is taken from the region’s Sunny Side – Early Country Trail, part of the new Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways program developed by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “It is our sincere hope that Governor’s Conference attendees will plan their travel either before or after the conference so as to be able to enjoy the many wonderful Northeast Tennessee attractions, points of interest, and communities highlighted on the ‘SunnySide Trail’,” said Ms. Moody.
The 2010 Governor’s Conference on Tourism is produced by the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. Detailed conference information and on-line registration will be available on the TTR Web site beginning June 1.
2011 Vacation Guide
Sales are now underway for the 2011 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide, the primary fulfillment piece for Tennessee Tourism’s multi-million dollar advertising, marketing and public relations campaigns. When a potential visitor calls or visits online to request Tennessee travel information, this is the showpiece guide they receive. With immersive content, vibrant photography and easy-to-use listings, the guide will provide visitors all the information they need to plan – and extend – their stay.
Don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity. Click Here to download the complete Media Kit that explains all the features and benefits of this years’ program.
To advertise in the 2011 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide, contact your Destination Specialist: Mary Steadman (Upper Cumberland and East Tennessee) at 423-956-4330, Mary.Steadman@MilesMedia.com; or Abbie Gristy (Middle and West Tennessee) at 731-298-1003, Abbie.Gristy@MilesMedia.com.
Civil War Trails Update
The Dept. of Tourism’s staff will be on the road to ensure that every county in Tennessee is represented on the Civil War Trails Program by the end of 2010. As Tennessee and the nation prepare for the commemoration of the Sesquicentennial in 2011, it is even more important that every county in this state is represented in the program. During the next several weeks, the team will be holding community visits in three regions, West, Upper Cumberland and Southeast Tennessee.
The department has seen a definite increase in requests for online and print information on the Civil War Trails program. Tennessee’s new Civil War Trails map guide received more than 420 downloads after the launch on civilwartraveler.com on April 15, 2010, and Tennessee’s Sesquicentennial Web site, www.tncivilwar150.com, has been a huge hit with over 10,000 page views.
Tennessee’s Civil War Trails map guide is scheduled to arrive in May and will be available for visitors in all 14 Welcome Centers, as well as in every community located on the trail.
The Civil War Trails program is a multi-state marking initiative designed to promote Civil War sites. In addition to Tennessee, other states involved are Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland.
Patricia Gray has joined the Civil War Trails Program and will be on the road with Lee Curtis to continue promoting this very important program to our partners and constituents throughout the state. If you are interested in joining the Civil War Trails program, please contact Patricia Gray at 615-741-9004 / firstname.lastname@example.org or Lee Curtis at 615-741-9045; email@example.com.
Tennessee Selected to Receive EPA: Source Reduction Grant
Tennessee’s Sustainable Tourism Initiative has taken a leading role in raising awareness about sustainability by developing and implementing a statewide educational initiative to assist the tour and travel industry in addressing sustainable tourism issues. As part of these continued efforts, Tourism along with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation applied for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Source Reduction Grant to research and develop a sustainable tourism certification program. Industry sources say sustainable tourism is good for Tennessee’s economy and the state’s environment. The growing interest in sustainable travel is reinforced by the implementation of similar certification programs in more than twenty states in the United States.
Great news for Tennessee! EPA has selected Tennessee to receive a grant to assist in the state’s efforts to research and develop a sustainable tourism certification program. The project’s goal is to continue to encourage the state’s hospitality industry to position the industry as a leader in the implementation of energy, water and waste conservation, pollution prevention, and sustainable business practices. The Tennessee Sustainable Tourism Initiative is recognized as a national model for sustainable tourism planning, and this project will enhance the state’s ability to establish a unique regional model for certification that incorporates the Environmental Protection Agency’s green hospitality guidelines.
The departments’ Green Team will be hitting the road again later this year to host five sustainable tourism workshops across the state. Your participation in these workshops will be important in order for the department to assess those businesses interested in being recognized for implementing eco-friendly and sustainable practices through a unique certification process. This program will move Tennessee’s hospitality industry forward as a leader in green building, green lodging, green meetings, and environmental performance. Dates and locations for the workshops will be provided in an upcoming tourism enewsletter as well as meeting notices included in other tourism and hospitality organization newsletters.
Tennessee Wins Race to the Top Grant
Governor Phil Bredesen announced in March that Tennessee was one of just two states selected in the first round of the federal government’s Race to the Top competition. Tennessee will receive about $500 million to implement comprehensive public education reform plans over the next four years.
“This is a landmark opportunity for Tennessee,” said Bredesen. “Our success in Race to the Top speaks to the commitment we’ve made to meaningful and significant improvement in public education, and the funds provided by the grant will carry us forward in a dramatic and positive direction.”
The $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund is an unprecedented federal investment in public education reform. The competition is designed to reward states that are leading the way in comprehensive, coherent, statewide reform across four key areas:
- Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace;
- Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals how to improve instruction;
- Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
- Turning around their lowest-performing schools.
Facts & Trends
New National Chairman of U.S. Travel Association Named
Stephen P. Joyce, president and chief executive officer of Choice Hotels International, Inc. has been named national chairman of the U.S. Travel Association, the 1,500-member national organization representing every segment of the travel community. Joyce succeeds Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of the California Travel and Tourism Commission.
Tourism Economics Leading Travel Indicator Continues to Improve
U.S. Travel Association’s Tourism Economics Leading Travel Indicator (TE LTI), which looks out six months to determine the direction of travel demand, stopped its downward slide in March 2009 and has shown consistent improvement since then. In fact, by August 2009, the LTI shifted from showing welcomed improvement to even better news indicating expected growth in travel demand occurring within the next six months. “We reached the six-month mark in October 2009 and travel demand has, indeed, continued to improve,” says Sr. Vice-President of Research Dr. Suzanne Cook, in the April issue of U.S. Travel Outlook. Dr. Cook’s article includes research analysis and trends on an array of travel related topics, including airlines, lodging, meetings, mobile apps and more.
Highway 64 in Polk County
Sometimes…Life IS a Highway
Life is getting back to normal for travelers and vacationers traveling between Tennessee and North Carolina. Over the past months, rockslides closed travel routes along I-40, near the Tennessee-North Carolina boarder; US-64, near the Ocoee Whitewater Center in Polk County; and US-129/SR-115 in Blount County at the entrance to the popular motorcycle route known as “The Dragon.”
I-40: Both eastbound lanes in Haywood County, NC are open while one westbound lane remains closed for about three miles until sometime this summer.
US-64: Both directions in Polk County are completely open. The county is divided by the Cherokee National Forest, and Highway 64 is the only direct route connecting the county.
US-129/SR-115: This section remains closed from just past the Foothills Parkway to the Tabcat Bridge. However, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. U.S. 129/SR-115 is open from Tabcat Bridge to the state line. Through traffic is not allowed to travel through the slide area at anytime. Detours remain in place to allow motorists to get around the rockslide repair area.
TDOT has created a web page for information on the rock slide. Motorists can find detour maps for all rockslides currently affecting travel in Tennessee.
Employee of the Month
Marilyn Steadman has a knack for helping visitors that travel to Tennessee. A Welcome Center Assistant at the I-81 Sullivan County (Bristol) Welcome Center, Marilyn made 1,125 reservations at various accommodations throughout Tennessee. For the third time she is our Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month receiving the recognition in May 2008 and January 2009. Steadman, who has been with the Department for more than three years, was again the recipient of the "Most Reservations" award for last year, making it three years in a row that she has received this award.
Celebrating with Marilyn are Mary Bailey, a co-worker of Marilyn's at the Bristol Welcome Center, with 891 reservations, and with 612 reservations was Deane Galbreath of the I-40 Cocke County (Hartford) Welcome Center.
The Tennessee Welcome Centers made nearly 10,000 reservations across the state last year.
Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.
Titanic Grand Opening in Pigeon Forge
Regis Philbin was on hand to help christen the new Titanic attraction in Pigeon Forge. The $25 million permanent attraction is a half-scale, three-deck reproduction of the famous ship. The museum houses 20 galleries that display hundreds of authentic Titanic artifacts. There are also full-size reproductions of suites and hallways. The centerpiece is a $1 million exact reproduction of the Titanic's grand staircase.
AAA and CAA Travel Planners Experience Blue Ridge Parkway Sites
Right as the peak travel season gets into gear, a motor coach with two dozen AAA and CAA Auto Travel Counselors from more than a dozen states and Canada, toured the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The FAM highlighted attractions, restaurants, hotels and the beautiful and bountiful landscape along the Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway Association, marketing partner for Blue Ridge Parkway, hosted the tour in coordination with the state tourism offices of North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.
Bald Eagle, Tiptonville
Bald eagle population growing in Tennessee
Once thought to be on the brink of extinction, bald eagles are now increasing in Tennessee. According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, 130 pairs were documented in 2009. The national symbol had nearly disappeared 30 years ago.
Westover Receives Grant
Gov. Phil Bredesen and the Tennessee Historical Commission announced Historic Preservation Fund grants to 28 community organizations, including Westover School in Union City. Westover Center for the Arts will receive $17,000 for the continued restoration of the Westover School for use as a community arts center.
Chattanooga CVB Launches New Branding Strategy
Congratulations to the Chattanooga CVB on the launch of a new branding initiative for broadcast - “Take Me There.” The commercials utilize tilt-shift photography and stop-motion video. The technique shifts the angle of the focal point in the image and gives it a miniature effect. This photography, when combined with stop motion, results in a tilt-shift video. The new commercial is currently being shown in Chattanooga’s feeder markets and is available online at www.ChattanoogaFun.com/TakeMeThere
Johnson City CVB Invites Travelers to “Start Your Adventure”
The Johnson City CVB has recently redefined their branding from “Where the Pioneer Spirit Began” to “Start Your Adventure.” Since the creation of its earlier brand six years ago, the Gray Fossil Site Museum and numerous motorcycle rallies have become major niche tourism attractions for the city. The new brand also works well with popular social media outlets. The CVB will continue to rely on its strength in attracting numerous athletic events, including track and field, and softball, its premier shopping opportunities, and it array of cultural and heritage offerings.
Commissioner Whitaker Joins Local Officials
at East Tennessee Crossing National
Scenic Byway Ceremony
East Tennessee Crossing Byway Ribbon Cutting
The ribbon cutting ceremony for the East Tennessee Crossing Byway was held on April 30, 2010 at the Clinch Mountain Overlook on US 25E in Grainger County. On hand were Commissioner Susan Whitaker of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Assistant Regional Director Amanda Snowden of the Tennessee Department of Transportation and numerous federal, state and local sponsors and supporters.
The 83 mile National Scenic Byway begins at the nationally significant Cumberland Gap National Historical Park at the Kentucky border in Claiborne County and ends in Cocke County at the North Carolina border inside the Cherokee National Forest. This route follows the original path of the Cherokee Warriors Path, the Wilderness Road across the Clinch Mountain and the Cumberland Gap, the Dixie Highway of the Civil War period and Thunder Road of moonshining lore.
Quote of the Month
Optimism is essential to achievement and it is also the foundation of courage and of true progress.
- Nicholas Murray Butler
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You