a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker

Dear Industry Partners,

Featured Article

Tennessee Civil War Trails: In the Ground and Growing

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is proud to announce that the Tennessee Civil War Trails have taken root and are spreading across the state. On Sept. 17, people gathered at the Williamson County Courthouse in Franklin to participate in the unveiling of the first Tennessee Civil War Trails historical...

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SHOWCASE

Commissioner Whitaker Speaks to Manchester Chamber

More than 100 Manchester Chamber of Commerce members welcomed Commissioner Susan Whitaker to the Manchester/Coffee County Conference Center on Sept. 9. Whitaker shared the importance of tourism as an economic driver for Tennessee and how Manchester is playing a part in that success....

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2008 Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Governor Bredesen Addresses Tourism Industry

Gov. Phil Bredesen addressed an audience of more than 400 tourism professionals during the last day of the 2008 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The conference, themed “Tennessee Tourism: Reaching Higher Ground,” has particular significance as a platform for launching...

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Marketing Update

Fall in Tennessee

More than 400 species of deciduous trees transform to create a blanket of deep orange, crimson and yellow that sweeps across the state from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Mississippi River.

Tennessee is home to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, scenic byways, lakes and 53...

Read more

Welcome Center

Rolling Thunder Raises Flag at Tennessee Welcome Centers

Rolling Thunder, a national veterans support organization, held a brief ceremony and raised the Prisoner of War – Missing in Action flag at 12 of the 13 Tennessee Welcome Centers on Sept. 19. The POW-MIA flag will fly at the Welcome...

Read more

Industry Applause

Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.

Gatlinburg Captures Top Honors
The International Festivals and Events Association honored Gatlinburg with eight international awards for excellence in event production. The Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade was awarded the IFEA/Haas & Wilkerson Grand Pinnacle Award,...

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Dear Industry Partners,

I am so proud to be part of Tennessee's incredible tourism industry. Last week's Governor's Conference in Gatlinburg proved to be a shining example of the many strengths and successes we share as an industry, and it provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments.

The Travel Industry Association's 2008 economic impact report brought good news once again.  Tennessee's economic impact from tourism jumped to $14.2 billion for 2007, a 6.2 percent and almost $1 billion increase over 2006. More than 50 million visitors came to Tennessee last year, contributing over $1.1 billion in state and local tax revenues. Our tourism employment numbers rose from 183,000 to 184,700. It was especially rewarding to report that Tennessee ranks number eight in person days and number 10 in person stays, respectively, among all 50 states. 

These numbers reflect an industry that is strong and, indeed, thriving. Congratulations to all of our partners in tourism for continuing to "reach higher ground" and achieve these remarkable milestones. 

I especially would like to thank Gov. Phil Bredesen for joining us on Friday and providing his inspiring outlook on tourism. His solid support of tourism as one of Tennessee's strongest economic drivers has been an encouragement to all of us within the industry. We appreciate his excellent leadership of our great state.

The feedback on Barbara Glanz's keynote address about contagious enthusiasm has been overwhelmingly positive, as evidence by the standing ovation given by the audience. In my book, the seminar alone was worth the price of admission.

The afternoon of "brand" enlightenment with Bill and Fran Lytle proved that branding remains essential to strong marketing success. This seminar helped to reinforce that important message.

My heartfelt thanks goes to Tennessee Tourism Roundtable's John Whisenant for his dedication and hard work in making this year's conference a great event for tourism. I would also like to give a special thanks to Assistant Commissioner Phyllis Qualls-Brooks for her advance work on the conference. We missed you, Phyllis, but you will be proud to know we all worked together to make the conference come off without a hitch. For that, I thank the staff of the TDTD for their great teamwork.

Congratulations are in order for all of the award winners this year, especially our Hartford Welcome Center on being named Welcome Center of the Year. Congratulations to Jackie Rains, Welcome Center manager, Laura Munn, regional manager, and to Barry Young for his leadership. Special congratulations to Scott Templeton of Miles Media for receiving the Gladiator Award in Tourism this year and to Joe Waggoner for receiving the Knight of the Roundtable Award.

It was a joy to be in Gatlinburg, especially as we approach the 75th anniversary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Dave Perella and Gatlinburg's tourism staff made hosting a major conference look easy. They paid attention to every detail and made certain that this Governor's Conference on Tourism was a great success. Thank you for your professionalism and for making our stay in Gatlinburg a memorable one. 

Now, we look to the future. Fall is upon us, and with this season comes a time of festivals, foliage and, yes, Tennessee football. I hope this season is a great one for you, as you continue to represent our industry with passion and purpose. Thank you for all you do to make our industry so successful. 

Warmest regards,


Susan Whitaker

a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Featured Article 

Tennessee Civil War Trails: In the Ground and Growing

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is proud to announce that the Tennessee Civil War Trails have taken root and are spreading across the state. On Sept. 17, people gathered at the Williamson County Courthouse in Franklin to participate in the unveiling of the first Tennessee Civil War Trails historical marker. Following a brief program, Commissioner Susan Whitaker and TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely cut the ribbon on the Franklin gateway marker to announce the official opening of the Tennessee Civil War Trails program.

Throughout the week, 17 additional markers were installed in Williamson County, Giles County and Sullivan County. In Williamson County alone, 14 markers were installed, including the gateway marker at the courthouse. You may find other markers at locations such as Dr. McPhail’s Office in downtown Franklin, Lotz House, Carnton Plantation and Winstead Hill. In Giles County, you will follow the bugle logo to Lairdland Farmhouse in Cornersville, which hosted its own dedication ceremony for their marker on Sept. 27. Finally, three historic markers were installed in Blountville, at the Masonic Female Institute, Cemetery Hill and the Sullivan County Courthouse.

“This program will enable hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans and visitors from around the world to experience and appreciate Tennessee’s rich Civil War heritage, as well as preserve the integrity of these historic sites for future generations,” said Commissioner Susan Whitaker. “Not only is this program about historical education, but this is also a tourism program that will create economic impact in the areas that have these sites.”

The Tennessee Civil War Trails program has been in the works for several years, and to see it come to fruition is very exciting for the Department and the state. With many more historical markers in the works, there will be a trail that extends all the way from Memphis to Blountville. Tennessee is second, only to Virginia, in Civil War-related sites. With the markers, citizens of the state have a chance to become part of a program that will strengthen Tennessee’s historical significance, as well as draw visitors from around the country.

SHOWCASE

Commissioner Whitaker Speaks to Manchester Chamber

More than 100 Manchester Chamber of Commerce members welcomed Commissioner Susan Whitaker to the Manchester/Coffee County Conference Center on Sept. 9. Whitaker shared the importance of tourism as an economic driver for Tennessee and how Manchester is playing a part in that success.

"It was such a great honor to have Commissioner Whitaker attend our September luncheon,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Susie McEacharn. “I feel it is very important to keep our membership up to date and informed about the opportunities the tourism industry presents to the entire business community not just the entertainment and amusement industry. It takes involvement from the entire community to keep our tourists happy. Commissioner Whitaker really gets everyone excited when she talks about Tennessee tourism and Bonnaroo."

In April 2008, Rolling Stone magazine named Manchester's music extravaganza, Bonnaroo, “Best Festival” in their “Best of Rock” issue. Last month, Bonnaroo became one of the first recipients of the prestigious 2008 Greener Festival Award.

Currently, there are three hotels being built in Manchester, including a Microtel, Sleep Inn and Suites and Comfort Inn.

2008 Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Governor Bredesen Addresses Tourism Industry

Gov. Phil Bredesen addressed an audience of more than 400 tourism professionals during the last day of the 2008 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The conference, themed “Tennessee Tourism: Reaching Higher Ground,” has particular significance as a platform for launching new ideas and announcing the range of services provided by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable.

“Each of you is important to the ongoing success of Tennessee tourism as you market and promote our world-class attractions and present our state’s special brand of Southern hospitality,” said Bredesen. “Thank you for the work you do to keep Tennessee at the forefront of the national tourism industry.”

Commissioner Susan Whitaker presented her annual state of the industry address before the governor’s speech, including an announcement of the latest Travel Industry Association numbers. Those numbers confirm tourism’s continued expansion as one of Tennessee’s key economic drivers. Tourism brought $14.2 billion in direct economic impact to the state, providing more than $1.1 billion in sales tax revenue, an increase of 6.2 percent over the previous year. More than 50 million visitors spent time in Tennessee last year and put more than 184,700 Tennesseans to work.

”Gatlinburg rolled out the red carpet to welcome the tourism industry to one of the world’s premier tourism sites,” said Whitaker. “This conference is a reminder that we should always be looking for ways to improve and grow our businesses with information and innovation.”

This year brought new and exciting initiatives in Tennessee tourism, including the Department of Tourist Development’s Sustainable Tourism Summit, leading up to next year’s 75th anniversary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and a commitment to sustainable tourism. The Civil War Trails initiative was also launched in Tennessee and joins four other states with statewide trails – Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia.

The conference began Sept. 24 with an afternoon of “brand enlightenment” with Bill and Fran Lytle. This seminar reinforced the importance of branding as an essential part of marketing success, while Barbara Glanz’s keynote address encouraged the audience to spread contagious enthusiasm and create workplaces of passion, purpose and productivity.

Several awards were presented during the conference. Scott Templeton of Miles Media was presented with the 2008 Gladiator Award in tourism, and Joe Waggoner received the 2008 Knight of the Roundtable Award. The Hartford Welcome Center also received the honor of being named Welcome Center of the Year.

The Governor’s Conference on Tourism exists to inform, update, and inspire tourism partners from across the state through keynote speakers, seminars, networking and the annual state of the industry presentation.

Marketing Update

Fall in Tennessee

More than 400 species of deciduous trees transform to create a blanket of deep orange, crimson and yellow that sweeps across the state from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Mississippi River.

Tennessee is home to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, scenic byways, lakes and 53 state parks that annually attract visitors from around the world traveling to see the season’s magic. Whether by road, by rail or by boat, delight in the beauty of autumn in Tennessee.

To find out about fall in Tennessee, including scenic routes and events, visit tnvacation.com or call Tennessee Tourism’s toll-free Fall Color Forecast Information Line at (800) 697-4200. Information is available on the first day of autumn and updated weekly.

Welcome Center

Rolling Thunder Raises Flag at Tennessee Welcome Centers

Rolling Thunder, a national veterans support organization, held a brief ceremony and raised the Prisoner of War – Missing in Action flag at 12 of the 13 Tennessee Welcome Centers on Sept. 19. The POW-MIA flag will fly at the Welcome Centers on the following days:

Nov. 11: Veterans Day
May 16: Armed Forces Day
May 25: Memorial Day
June 14: Flag Day
July 4: Independence Day

There are five Rolling Thunder chartered chapters in Tennessee and another being formed. The group has more than 500 members throughout the state. Rolling Thunder strives to bring awareness about members of the armed forces who are prisoners of war or missing in action. The organization holds an annual ceremony at the White House in each May during Memorial Day weekend.

Kathy Sorenson

Welcome Center Employee of the Month

Kathy Sorenson, of the I-40 Smith County Welcome Center, is the Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for September 2008.As Welcome Center Assistant, Kathy has been with our department since 1999.One of our visitors wrote the department praising the Kathy’s work and the work of the other employees at the Smith County Welcome Center, which is located in Buffalo Valley.

"I don't know who to direct this to, but I want to express my appreciation to the folks at the Welcome Center at mile marker 267 on I-40.My two daughters recently experienced car trouble on their way home from college.Kathy and an unknown ‘maintenance man’ helped them out so they were able to continue. From a Dad who was four hours away at the time, please convey my thanks."

Kathy is known for her professionalism, positive attitude and customer service. Congratulations toKathy Sorenson for a job well done and for being selected as the Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for September!

Industry Applause

Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.

Gatlinburg Captures Top Honors
The International Festivals and Events Association honored Gatlinburg with eight international awards for excellence in event production. The Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade was awarded the IFEA/Haas & Wilkerson Grand Pinnacle Award, the highest award that an event can receive. In addition, Gatlinburg received seven category awards (3 Gold, 2 Silver and 2 Bronze) at the competition, which drew more than 1,425 entries from among the world’s top festivals and events.

Wild Side Receives Award
Tennessee's Wild Side, a weekly outdoor adventure television program produced by The Renaissance Center with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and The Nature Conservancy, was recognized with a 2008 Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation honored the Emmy-winning program, which airs on PBS stations across Tennessee and Kentucky Educational Television, in the Natural Heritage Conservation category.

Freedom Riders Get Degrees
In 1961, activists for civil rights were expelled as they set out to make the world a better place. Forty-seven years later Tennessee State University honors 14 former students who risked everything – life, reputation and education – when they boarded a bus and joined the Freedom Ride.

Bonnaroo Music Festival

Bonnaroo Festival Wins 2008 Green Award
Bonnaroo is one of the first recipients of the prestigious 2008 Greener Festival Award for their efforts in promoting environmentally friendly music festivals. So far, Bonnaroo is the only festival in America to receive the award and was singled out as a “beacon of excellence.”

Bible Park USA
After a lengthy negotiation process, Wilson County and the city of Lebanon have landed Bible Park U.S.A. The $175 million, Bible theme park is awaiting approval from the city and county commissions before construction will begin.

President Bush Appoints Knoxville Mayor
President George W. Bush has appointed Mayor Bill Haslam to a four-year term on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The 23-member body governs an agency that advises the president and Congress on historic preservation policy and issues, as well as promoting the enhancement, preservation and productive use of the nation's historic resources.

Left to right: State Representatives Joe McCord and
Richard Montgomery, Tennessee Department of Tourist
Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Gatlinburg
Mayor Mike Werner, Gatlinburg City Manager
Cindy Cameron Ogle, Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce
President Dan Booth, Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Director
Vicki Simms, Hilton Garden Inn developer Logan Coykendall,
D&S Builders contractor Alex Davis, and project investors
Shailesh Patel, Bobby Patel, Howard Patel, and Carol Dotson.

New Hotel Under Development in Downtown Gatlinburg
Hospitality Management Solutions, Inc. (HMS), a locally owned management company, will raise the stakes in the Sevier County lodging industry with the construction of the Hilton Garden Inn® Downtown Gatlinburg in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The $15 million project is scheduled to open in summer 2009 and will offer 118 guest rooms and luxurious suites.

“HMS will not only bring in the award winning, mid-priced Hilton Garden Inn brand to Gatlinburg, but we also hope to showcase a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified hotel,” said Logan Coykendall, president of Hospitality Management Solutions. “With Smoky Mountains National Park in our backyard, it is a natural fit for Gatlinburg to be an innovator in promoting efficient and sustainable green development, and we encourage others to follow our lead.”

Knoxville Voted “Visitor Friendly City” by Black Meetings & Tourism Magazine
Knoxville has been named one of 26 “Visitor Friendly Cities” by Black Meetings & Tourism magazine. Attractions that were noted include Ijams Nature Center, Knoxville Zoo, Beck Cultural Exchange Center, Morningside Park, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Knoxville Museum of Art and World’s Fair Park, as well as events such as Sundown in the City and Kuumba Festival.

Golden Ticket Awards
Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Awards is an annual tradition to celebrate the "Best of the Best." Beating out Magic Kingdom in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas was voted the Best Christmas Event in the nation. Dollywood received other top awards including no. 2 on the list of Top Wooden Roller Coasters, no. 2 for Friendliest Parks, no. 3 for Cleanest Park, no. 2 for Best Shows and no. 2 for Best Food.

The Hermitage, Home of
President Andrew Jackson

Howard Kittell Accepts Position at Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage
The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson, welcomes President and CEO Howard Kittell. Kittell serves as the executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, a position he has held since 1998.

“I am tremendously honored to have been approached by, and ultimately offered the CEO position of The Hermitage,” said Kittell. “Since I first became interested in American presidential history and American architecture, Andrew Jackson and The Hermitage have ranked with Washington, Jefferson, Mt. Vernon and Monticello as principal areas of interest for me.”

Three Tennessee Festivals Make ABA’s List of 100 Best Events for 2009
The Secret City Festival in Oak Ridge, River and Spires Festival in Clarksville and the Pigeon Forge Winterfest in Pigeon Forge were all honorees in the American Bus Association’s Top 100 Events of North America.

Dyers America's Best Burgers
MSN asked Josh Ozersky, food writer and author of "The Hamburger," and George Motz, burger historian and author of "Hamburger America," to help define the best burgers in America. Coming in at no. 9 is Dyer's Burgers in Memphis, Tenn.

Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You