I’ve just returned from the Governor’s Conference and am still smiling over our time together. My friends and business associates will tell you, I am not easily rendered speechless, but you certainly overwhelmed me on Friday. I was so moved when Dave Perella surprised me with “The Champion of Tourism” Award. It is truly an honor to now and forever be a “Tennessee Champion of Tourism.” Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
The conference this year held many highlights. It is always great to be among my tourism colleagues and enjoy “face time.” And, as always, it is good to have Governor Bredesen show such consistent support of tourism by championing our cause and commending our continued growth.
Commissioner Whitaker receiving
“The Champion of Tourism” Award
from TTR Chair Dave Perella
I hope I never stop learning about ways to help grow our industry. Roy Williams brings new insight into the world of advertising and marketing. His viewpoint is both stimulating and challenging. I’m grateful that Roy was able to share three full sessions with us - to inspire, motivate and turn us on our ear a bit with his tried and true wizardry.
While it was impossible for me to attend all of the other seminars offered during the conference, I heard nothing but excellent reviews about the speakers and am pleased that the time was worthwhile and informative. Let’s agree to put the motivation and inspiration of the Governor’s Conference to good work as we return to our respective tourism jobs.
I want to again thank the TTR, its board, members and staff, our keynote speaker, Roy Williams, our sister organizations, the Tennessee Restaurant Association, the Tennessee Hotel and Lodging Association, all of the panelists and of course my staff in the department of tourist development for making this conference one of the best ever. The Knoxville Convention Center and the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation did an excellent job hosting our group and we appreciate all of their hard work. Tourism in Tennessee is strong and continuing to grow. I thank you all for your role in making tourism one of the most important industries in our state. You are all Champions of Tourism in my book.
With deep appreciation,
Governor’s Conference on Tourism Unveils New Initiatives
The Tennessee Department of Tourism and Tennessee Tourism Roundtable partnered in hosting the Annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism, held this year in Knoxville, September 20-22. The conference was attended by more than 500 tourism professionals from across the state and was a joint conference of the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable (TTR), Tennessee Hotel and Lodging Association (THLA), and Tennessee Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (TACVB).
Branded “Unique Tourism” (UT), the event held particular significance as a platform for launching new initiatives by the Department of Tourist Development. One highlight of the state of the industry address presented on Friday by Commissioner Susan Whitaker was the announcement of tourism’s Education Initiative.
This Education Initiative, spearheaded by Assistant Commissioner Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, targets educators across the state, both in secondary education and institutions of higher learning. Promoting tourism as a career path which offers diverse interests, creative options and life-long career satisfaction is the central message of the Education Initiative.
The Education Initiative also informs students of career-focused activities such as workshops, seminars, certificate programs, internships and sponsored scholarships.
Gloria Ray, President & CEO of Knoxville Tourism
& Sports Corp., Mark Brown, Vice-Mayor, City of Knoxville,
and Dave Perella, Chairman of TTR
The presentation on Friday included a five minute video highlighting tourism career opportunities and featuring some of Tennessee’s most successful tourism professionals. The film will be presented at gatherings around the state to promote the initiative.
Commissioner Whitaker also unveiled Tennessee Tourism’s 2006-2007 print advertising campaign which will be featured in national publications such as Southern Living, O – Oprah Winfrey’s Magazine, Golf Digest, and Field and Stream. The campaign was created by Chandler Ehrlich Advertising Agency in Memphis and features a unique first-person perspective touting Tennessee as a place where tourists can have “Burdens Released,” “Worries Derailed,” “Cares Freed,” and “Troubles Drowned.” In a word, Tennessee is the perfect vacation destination.
Additional good news included the announcement that Tennessee Tourism’s website, tnvacation.com experienced tremendous growth thanks to the Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton TV commercial as well as recent enhancements including sections dedicated to agri-tourism, shopping and fall in Tennessee. Commissioner Whitaker announced that due to the popularity of the commercial and the creative design of the site, tnvacation.com is one of the most popular vacation web addresses on the Internet, ranking in the Top 10 among more than 200 million sites on Google.
Tennessee Tourism’s conference brought the good news that 48.9 million visitors traveled to Tennessee last year. All 95 counties in Tennessee had cause to celebrate the announcement in that each county had an increase in tourism expenditures for the first time since 1997.
Gov. Phil Bredesen closed out the luncheon with an upbeat message of congratulations to Commissioner Whitaker and the entire tourism industry on a banner year. He cited the increase in tourism revenue, at $12.4 billion, a $1 billion increase over the previous year.
The Governor’s Conference on Tourism exists to inform, update, and inspire tourism partners from across the state through keynote speakers, seminars, receptions, state of the industry presentation and the Governor’s speech.
Group Mystery Tours Offer Unexpected Adventure in Tennessee
Most groups who travel with friends on a motorcoach, church bus or van have seen the trip’s itinerary before stepping on board. They know their city destinations and the attractions that await their arrival. But many of today’s popular group leaders are adding unexpected adventure to their Tennessee travels by planning mystery tours. And tourism directors from Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) and chambers across the state have learned to be prepared when the request comes to help plan a tour.
Mystery tours are not spooky ghost walks, although they do contain elements of surprise, since travelers are only told the theme of the trip, the dates and what to wear.
Bennjin Lao, Tourism Sales Manager at the Nashville CVB will usually suggest the “Star for a Day” tour. The first stop is the historic RCA Studio B, where many of the music legends recorded their hit songs. The tour moves to The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and finishes at the Wild Horse Saloon. “It’s a tour that we suggest to everyone, but it fit’s as a mystery tour because of a surprise group recording session with one of Elvis’s hit songs.
:pullquote:Dave Kinney, President of All in One Destinations, a Nashville based receptive company, adds to the surprise by having the song played at the Wild Horse and handing each traveler their personal copy as they step back on the motorcoach….headed for home. “It seems that it’s the surprise that people remember on the trip,” Kinney says.
Melissa Hayslip, President of First Choice Tours in Nashville enjoys including the fun and surprise of a “Hillbilly Hijacking” when planning a group tour in northeast Tennessee. This can be coordinated through the Kingsport CVB. That same tour might also include picking apples in a nearby orchard.
Agri-tourism is an ideal contributor to a mystery tour, since many people who live in big cities never set foot on a farm. Susan Goldblatt, Executive Director of the Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association (SETTA) has a special “Day on the Farm” itinerary that she suggests. The corn maze at Rippavilla Plantation in Spring Hill which features a map of Tennessee is another example of an adventure while learning about the state.
Naturally, a good mystery needs a few clues, which may be shared, either while the trip is being promoted, as the group boards the bus or in between destinations.
Clue: “You’ve just seen the best of the past, now you’re going to see the best of the future.”
The “best of the past” refers to the living history at the Old Spencer Mill in Dickson, Tennessee, an 1800’s double stone grist mill that grinds wheat and corn. The mill’s interpreters demonstrate pioneer chores in period dress, while guests enjoy the hands on experience of making soap, candles and brooms.
The “best of the future” hints of The Renaissance Center, a state-of-the-art facility where young and old alike can experience a “renaissance” of learning and self-awareness.
“Anticipation in life is sometimes to be savored,” says Trish Miller, owner of the mill and a member of the Dickson County Chamber of Commerce’s tourism committee.
The Chamber uses mystery tours to showcase their area, hoping that the 50 to 60 visitors on the tour buses will someday return and call the area home. The tours are customized to the group’s taste by the chamber’s tourism director, Rhonda Adams.
Trains, planes and automobiles are favorite clues that Shelda Rees, Director of Tourism at the Chattanooga CVB, and a group leader recently developed. This tour included a visit to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, a ride on the incline up Lookout Mountain, a trip to an air show in Tullahoma and a visit to the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum in Chattanooga. Yes, there is a museum for tow trucks.
“Finally, don’t forget to include something unique in your mystery tour.” Says Rees. “I typically suggest activities that a group does not normally receive when visiting an attraction, such as a behind the scenes tour at the Tennessee Aquarium or a wine and cheese reception at the Hunter Museum of American Art.” Attractions can help by ensuring that receptives, tour operators, group leaders and local CVBs/chambers are aware of the unique opportunities that are being offered.
Dyersburg Welcome Center
In the far northwestern corner of the state sits the Dyersburg Welcome Center. Located along I 155, this center stands ready to greet visitors from the boothill area of Missouri and other western locales as they enter the state across only one of three bridges that cross the Mississippi River into Tennessee. The other two bridges that cross over the Mississippi are located in Memphis.
:pullquote:People aren’t the only guests to visit this log cabin style Welcome Center which was built in 1983. Many hummingbirds make their way to the bird feeders positioned around the building. Traditionally, tourists spend a great deal of their time enjoying the Ruby throated, Rufous, Black chinned, Allen’s or Calliope species of the hummingbird, all of which frequent their home at the center.
“Tourists really take pleasure in viewing the hummingbirds as they fly around and also enjoy the food we have placed in the feeders,” said Barry Young, Director of Welcome Centers, “this is quite unique and young children especially get a joy out of it.”
The staff of seven takes pride in the center and look forward to their winged friends that make the Welcome Center their home April through September of each year. Buddy Miller, the center’s manager, has been a part of the staff since 1987.
“The log cabin style building with fireplace makes our Welcome Center very inviting to our guests,” said Miller.
Fall Foliage Reports
Just a reminder that Tennessee's Fall Foliage Information Line offers weekly color reports throughout the fall season.
Send fall color inquiries to 1-800-697-4200 or to our website at tnvacation.com and click on visit fall site.
FRIST CENTER DESIGNATES WEEK TO CELEBRATE ONE MILLION VISITORS
During the week of Sept. 4, 2006, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts welcomed its one millionth visitor since the institution opened April 8, 2001. A week of activities was planned to celebrate this milestone.
Every day, Monday, Sept. 4 to Friday, Sept. 8, visitors registered to win prizes in a drawing to be held at the end of each day. Among the prizes being awarded were free annual memberships, a year’s free parking in Frist Center visitor lots, Frist Center Gift Shop gift certificates, posters and exhibition catalogs, and gift certificates to use in the Frist Center Café.
On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoon, radio personality Harry Stephenson of WAMB-FM broadcasted live in the Frist Center’s Grand Lobby during the week and, talented Frist Center employees were on hand to entertain in the Grand lobby at noon each day.
NASHVILLE AND PIGEON FORGE GARNER TOP HONORS FROM ABA TOUR OPERATORS
Nashville recently won the honor of top city visited in the past year in the American Bus Association’s annual “Best and the Rest” Survey of its members who were asked to identify the best places for group travel. Results were reported in ABA’s magazine, Destinations. Nashville joined Chicago and Philadelphia as the top three U.S. cities the operators had visited in the past year.
Pigeon Forge is in a trio of cities that motorcoach tour operators say are the top destinations in North America for their groups to “get the most bang for their buck.” Ranked with Pigeon Forge are the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., and the Midwest travel mecca of Branson, Mo.
Both Nashville and Pigeon Forge are home to international attractions including Dollywood, the Grand Ole Opry, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, among several others.
TENNESSEE WINERIES WIN BIG AT INDY INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION
Five of Tennessee’s finest wineries brought home 25 top awards from the Fifteenth Annual Indy International Wine Competition, held July 27 – 29 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Winning wineries include: Apple Barn Winery, Sevierville; Beachaven Winery, Clarksville; Beans Creek Winery, Manchester; Keg Springs Winery, Hampshire; and Mountain Valley Vineyards, Pigeon Forge.
The event brought over 3,800 wines from 17 countries, making it the largest wine competition in the country. The Indy is also the second largest amateur competition in the country and is home of the largest fruit wine competition.
SHERYL BAKER RECEIVES RECOGNITION FOR SALES EFFORTS
Sheryl Baker, Senior Associate Director of Sales for The Peabody Hotel, has been named “2005 – 2006 Supplier of the Year” for the Tennessee Chapter of Meeting Professionals International. MPI is the premier organization for the meetings industry with a global membership of 20,242 meeting and event professionals. Baker began her hospitality career at The Peabody Hotel more than 25 years ago as a member of the sales and catering team for the hotel's 1981 reopening. She worked her way up from Catering Assistant to Senior Associate Director of Sales, collecting a shelf full of awards along the way. “Sheryl's hard work and dedication continues to be recognized by her peers and her clients. She has proven herself over and over again to be a tremendous asset to The Peabody, to Memphis, and to the meetings industry as a whole,” says Craig Smith, Director of Sales, The Peabody Hotel.
JUD TEAGUE NAMED KINGSPORT CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce has named Jud Teague as its new Kingsport Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director. Teague most recently served as Director of Program Development for the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) in Kissimmee, FL.A University of TN graduate, Teague has spent much of his career in the world of sports serving as Executive Director of Knox Youth Sports, coach in the Knox County School System and Senior Sports Manager for the Amateur Athletic Union. Teague has also won many awards including the USSSA Executive Director Award, Disney’s Wide World of Sports Award of Excellence and AAU’s National Baseball Volunteer of the Year award.
“In addition to his exceptional sports background Teague has led the successful pursuit of many conventions and conferences over the years and has some great ideas on how to expand the number of visitors we see in Kingsport,” said Miles Burdine, executive vice president & CEO of the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce.
CERTIFIED TENNESSEE TOURISM PROFESSIONAL
One of the Governor’s Conference highlights was the awarding of the Certified Tennessee Tourism Professional (CTTP) designation to sixteen graduates. The CTTP program was developed through a joint effort between Tennessee Tourism Roundtable and the University of Tennessee Tourism Institute of Knoxville. The CTTP designation is the symbol of excellence and leadership within the State of Tennessee’s Tourism and Travel Industry.
The 2006 CTTP Class:
Paul Aydelott, Chairman Hickman County Tourism Association
Jayne Craddock, Photographer/Journalist
Terry Crutcher, Executive Director Stewart Chamber of Commerce
Susan Eidam, Owner Blue Moon Farm Bed & Breakfast
Lisa Garey, Sr. Marketing Manager Tennessee Aquarium
Kaye Ireland, Executive Director Sumner County CVB
Kim Jones, Convention Sales Manager Kingsport CVB
Kimberly Leonard, Marketing and Sales Coordinator Bristol CVB
Frank Lett, Director of Sports Marketing Kingsport CVB
Marty Marbry, Regional Manager, West Tennessee Tennessee Dept. of Tourist Development
Mary Miltenberger, VP Client Services Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corp.
Ricky Rodriguez, Director Wilson County CVB
Sissy Smith, Ambassador Program Coordinator Kingsport CVB
Derrick Smith, Regional Manager, Middle Tennessee Tennessee Dept. of Tourist Development
Diana Steelman, Tourism Coordinator Giles County Tourism Foundation
John Whisenant, Executive Director Williamson County CVB
Melisa Zimmerman, Program Coordinator TN Civil War National Heritage Area
Pictured along with the 2006 CTTP class are Dr. Steve Morse, Program Coordinator and Dave Perella, TTR Chairman.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You