Dear Tourism Partners,
During this season of thanksgiving, we have much to be thankful for in Tennessee’s thriving tourism industry. This past year has been filled with noteworthy achievements and successful tourism milestones. For the second year in a row, tourism’s contribution to the state’s economic growth topped $1 billion. Nearly 50 million visitors experienced our state’s pristine scenic beauty while visiting our world-class attractions and participating in our many outdoor adventures. We are part of an industry that provides people with vacation memories to last a lifetime, while making an economic contribution that truly makes a difference in the lives of every Tennessean. Now that’s something for which we can all be grateful.
It was very special for me to be a part of the first-ever Chinese and U.S. Tourism Summit held on October 25, in Charlotte, NC. The event, sponsored by the Travel Industry Association of America, was attended by the leading Chinese tourism officials from all 31 Chinese provinces and more than three dozen U.S. state tourism directors. This was a key opportunity to discuss ways for the two countries to increase cooperation on travel-related matters. The Summit ended with both parties signing the Initiative on Establishment of “China-U.S. Strategic Cooperation Framework in Tourism,” and coincided with Governor Bredesen’s economic trade mission to China and the opening of Tennessee’s first economic development office in the People’s Republic of China.
:pullquote:Planning is now underway for another very important Summit, the Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit. We in tourism have a unique opportunity to take the lead in demonstrating that we are good stewards of our environment and heritage while sustaining economic development. In partnership with several state and national organizations including the University of Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State University and the National Geographic Society, the inaugural Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit will be held in Knoxville on April 28 and 29, 2008. This Summit will bring together experts in each of these fields to provide best practices and options for local community planning.
In preparation for this event, five Town Hall Forums will be held the first week of November to discuss tourism issues impacting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its gateway communities. These include Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Alcoa, Maryville, Townsend, Knoxville, Newport, Cosby and Pittman Center as well as the North Carolina gateway communities. The Town Hall Forums will be a time to identify issues and opportunities that local communities would like experts to address at the Summit this spring. Details on the Town Hall Forums are in a related article in this issue of the newsletter.
Tennessee continues to be recognized across the country by major media outlets such as NBC’s “Today Show” and “America’s Best Online” for its fall foliage made up of brilliant reds, golds, yellows and oranges that move across our state from east to west. There is no question that in Tennessee, each change of season creates a new set of reasons for travelers to visit us. The busy fall season, with more than 300 festivals and events, transitions smoothly into the bustling holiday season. There’s always something to look forward to in Tennessee.
Thank you all for the dedication you have to our industry and for always bringing out the best in Tennessee in all seasons!
A very happy and blessed season of Thanksgiving to you and those you hold dear,
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Town Hall Forums Address Sustainable Tourism In Great Smoky Mountains National Park Area
The University of Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State University and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development will host five Town Hall Forums, Nov. 6 – 8, 2007, to discuss sustainable tourism in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its gateway communities.
The critical issue facing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its gateway communities is how to sustain strong economic growth while sustaining natural beauty and the heritage that makes this area appealing to both residents and visitors. Sustainable tourism practices create healthy and viable communities by combining growth and preservation.
Each forum will begin with an overview of sustainable tourism challenges and opportunities by Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker. Dr. Van West, director of the Center for Historic Preservation for Middle Tennessee State University, will present the key issues with Beth Phillips, economic development specialist for the Institute for Public Service at The University of Tennessee.
There will be an open discussion and an overview of the issues presented to determine the next steps needed to address the needs of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its gateway communities.
Town Hall Forums on Sustainable Tourism Schedule:
Nov. 6, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. Sevierville - Pigeon Forge. Location: Governor’s Inn, Sevierville
Nov. 6, 2:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m. Newport - Cosby. Location: Whisperwood Farms, Cosby
Nov. 7, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. Gatlinburg - Pittman Center. Location: Park Vista Hotel, Gatlinburg
Nov. 7, 2:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m. Knoxville - Alcoa. Location: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Nov. 8, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. Maryville - Townsend. Location: Blount County Library, Maryville
For additional information regarding participation in the Town Hall Forums, please contact Patricia Gray with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development at 615-741-9004 or email@example.com, or Queena Jones with IPS at 865-974-533 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gray Fossil Site Joins Science with Tourism
The East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Visitor Center at the Gray Fossil Site opened in the Tri-Cities region of East Tennessee, Aug. 31, 2007. The locals call it the Gray Fossil Site. Since opening, more than 20,000 tourists, educators, students, and paleontologists have marveled at the colorful interactive exhibits, beautiful murals, and dioramas featuring examples of discoveries from the ancient dig that are over 4.5 million years old.
The artifacts were discovered in the year 2000 when state road crews discovered a five-acre site containing the fossilized remains of an entire ecosystem of plants and animals from the late Miocene period. With less than one percent of the site excavated to date, thousands of specimens have been recovered, including such large mammal species as the saber-toothed cat, short-faced bear, ground sloth, rhino, camel, shovel-tusked elephant, horse, red panda, Eurasian badger and the world’s largest collection of fossil tapirs. Other discoveries include numerous smaller mammals, as well as birds, reptiles, alligators, fish and amphibians.
Gray Fossil Site
The impressive 33,000-square-foot museum and visitor center is one of only a few located directly on a fossil site, allowing visitors to view the excavation area from the building. Those wanting an up close and personal experience should take the guided tour and observe a true fossil dig, screen for fossils in a designated area and have their personal find identified. All of this makes for an amazing photo opportunity.
"ETSU is entrusted with a rare opportunity and an important responsibility to teach generations of students and visitors lessons about the earth and its inhabitants, firsthand,” said ETSU President Dr. Paul E. Stanton, Jr. “The potential for regional tourism and worldwide recognition for the work going on at Gray is tremendous."
The center’s activities also include “Fossil Show and Tell” night. The community is invited to bring their personal “fossil finds” to be identified and photographed by ETSU’s team of paleontologists. The museum is also a popular site for birthday parties and other community gatherings.
The museum is located on State Route 75, about two miles west of the I-26 Gray Exit 13 (old Exit 42). The facility is open daily from 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. For further information, call 1-866-202-6223, e-mail at email@example.com or visit www.grayfossilmuseum.org.
Pickwick Has A "Belle"
The tourism industry is booming in the beautiful state of Tennessee and a small town in rural Southwest Tennessee, Pickwick, is on a roll…literally…to promote travel to its beautiful resort community while providing an adventurous reason to extend the stay! Hardin County is “rolling on the river” powered by two paddle wheels behind the Pickwick Belle, an authentic paddle wheel river boat that now calls Pickwick Lake her home. The Pickwick Belle journeyed from LaCrosse, Wisconsin on a 14-day voyage to claim her home on the calm waters of Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee River.
On Monday, Oct. 8, 2007, she was officially named the Pickwick Belle at a Christening Ceremony held at Pickwick Landing State Resort Park.
Captain Chip Lucas joined local and state officials with the toss of champagne over the bow of the vessel as more than 100 guests boarded the riverboat for the inaugural cruise on the waters she now calls home, making history in Hardin County.
The Pickwick Belle will now offer public and charter cruises on Pickwick Lake including sight-seeing cruises, dinner cruises, Civil War themed cruises and many more. There is a cruise for all ages and all pocketbooks. The Official Web site of the Pickwick Belle www.pickwickbelle.com.
National Preservation Trust
Derrick Smith Attends Historic Trust Conference
Derrick Smith, Middle Tennessee regional manager for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, attended the National Preservation Conference sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Saint Paul, Minn. as a Diversity Scholar. The National Preservation Conference is the premier conference in the United States for professionals in preservation and allied fields, dedicated volunteers, and supporters.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America's communities. A recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the Trust was founded in 1949 and provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to protect the irreplaceable places that tell America's story. Staff from the Washington D.C. headquarters, six regional offices, and 28 historic sites work with the Trust's 270,000 members and thousands of preservation groups in all 50 states.
It is the single best source of information, ideas, inspiration and contacts. Smith was among 58 scholarship recipients, representing 27 states. Also representing Tennessee as a scholar was John E. Haynes of Franklin's United Community Resource Foundation.
"Derrick and John have joined approximately 1,100 other scholars that have participated in the Diversity Scholarship Program," said Jeffrey A. Harris, director for Diversity.
The Diversity Scholarship Program, in its 15th year, aims to increase the diversity of participants at the conference and in the preservation movement. Preservationists from diverse racial, ethnic, economic and cultural backgrounds benefit their communities by attending.
"Attending the National Trust Conference enlightened me in the area of preservation and cultural heritage," said Smith. "The week was full of interesting presentations, lectures and field trips. I look forward to sharing the information I've obtained with others."
Hartford Welcome Center
Nestled within the mountains of the Cherokee National Forest along I-40 is the Hartford Tennessee Welcome Center. Just five miles east of the North Carolina boarder, the Hartford Center's inviting setting provides travelers with information, southern hospitality and comfort.
On land donated to the State by the National Forest Service, Hartford Welcome Center opened its doors in 1991. In 2006, more than 756,000 vacationers visited the Hartford Center.
One of the exclusive features of the Hartford Center is its front porch with rocking chairs facing the Great Smoky Mountains.
"People love our front porch," said Jackie Rains, center manager and a 24-year TDTD veteran. "Many of them stop in and spend time rocking while taking in the view."
:pullquote: “The Hartford Welcome Center is in a beautiful area surrounded by the Smoky Mountains. Each year, the staff receives numerous compliments on the cleanliness and hospitality of the Center. These compliments are a tribute to Jackie and her staff. They do a great job welcoming visitors who enter Tennessee via I-40 West," said Barry Young, director of Tennessee Welcome Centers.
One such compliment was sent to the TDTD by Mrs. Tamera Frank of North Carolina. Mrs. Frank, the mother of a 13-year old bone marrow transplant patient, travels to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. They travel by car to St. Jude each month because Nikolai is unable to fly due to the high risk of exposure to infectious and airborne diseases on airplanes, thus she wrote in to share her thoughts on her experience with the Hartford Welcome Center.
"The rest area near the North Carolina/Tennessee line has been a true life saver for our son,” said Tamera. "I have gone in so many, many times; the clean scent of soap fills the air, the bathrooms are so immaculate every single time. I've cried often, with such gratitude in my heart that Nikolai has a place to go to the restroom that puts him at the least possible risk a public area can provide."
"We thank all of you so very much. I wish so much that every public area could look to your facility as a model; one that sets the standard, a high standard of excellence that is, to be greatly commended," Tamera added. "The staff members at the desk are always so friendly, courteous and doing such an excellent, excellent job.”
Welcome Center Employee of the Month
Sherry Clifton, of the I-65 Giles County Welcome Center (Ardmore), is the Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for October. Sherry, a Welcome Center assistant, has been with the Department of Tourist Development since November 1991. She is always very friendly and courteous to travelers and her fellow employees.
"Sherry always goes the extra mile to help everyone out, whether it is making a reservation, giving directions, or just having a listening ear to a tired traveler," said Janice Rich, Ardmore Welcome Center manager.
The department received a letter from a tourist in Wisconsin stating that Sherry went over and above the call of duty to assist her and her family on their recent visit to Tennessee. Sherry also has a big heart when it comes to children and really enjoys talking with and assisting families with small children.
A recent poll of nearly 60,000 Travel + Leisure readers and CNN Headline News viewers have spoken, and they love Nashville. This southern city was on a list of 25 cities throughout the nation that the magazine and cable channel asked travelers to evaluate. Those polled liked the barbeque in Nashville. The full poll includes categories such as attractive people, antiquing and architecture. Additionally, Nashville has made Money Magazine's "Best Places to Retire" top ten list because of the availability of condos, walkability, proximately to schools, hospitals, music and art venues and the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center This year's list zeroed in on metropolitan areas with strong urban housing markets.
The old Triangle School in Fairview has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Fairview Historic Preservation Commission was fearful that it would be condemned, however a restoration expert has reviewed the building and said it is in amazing shape for its age and that it’s safe. Thanks to the designation, the building will remain intact.
Memphis in May
Memphis in May International Festival has picked up 18 awards including the top gold award in four categories from International Festivals & Events Association's 52nd Annual Convention & Expo and IFEA/HAS & Wilkerson Pinnacle Awards competition. The expo drew 1,380 entries from festival and events around the world. MIM took the gold awards for Best Promotional Brochure, Best Sponsorship Solicitation, Best Press/Media Kit and Best T-shirt Design. Memphis in May is a month-long festival that honors a different country each year. In 2007 it honored Spain.
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matthew Kisber announced that Dyer County has achieved certification under the state's Three-Star Program for the 25th consecutive year. Dyer County has demonstrated a well-thought-out plan and a determined initiative in taking on the challenges of the Three-Star Program. The Three-Star Program has set high standards and incentives like no other state-run program in the nation.
The Country Music Association donated $655,624 to the Metro Nashville school system to fund music education programs. The money was generated through the 2007 CMA Music Festival in Nashville and is part of CMA's "Keep the Music Playing" program in partnership with the Nashville Alliance for Public Education. To date, CMA has donated more than $1 million to build music labs, buy instruments and supplies for Metro schools.
Kids Cove, Knoxville Zoo
Keep Knoxville Beautiful and the Knoxville News Sentinel have given the Knoxville Zoo the 2007 Environmental Achievement Award at the annual Orchids and Onions Awards ceremony. The award is given to organizations that are involved in recycling and clean-up, who work to reduce waste, who use an environmental plan, who conserve water and energy, and those who demonstrate leadership in all of those areas. Knoxville Zoo officials say they have many conservation programs including the staff "Green Team," roadside cleanups, a zoo-wide recycling program, composting of animal waste, and much more.
America’s Best and Top Ten Online has named the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as one of the Best Top Ten places to view fall foliage in America. The park was cited as one of the largest protected areas in the Eastern United States, known worldwide for the diversity of its plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, and the depth and integrity of its wilderness sanctuary.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You