a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker

Dear Colleagues,

Industry Spotlight

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2013 Tourism Conference In Franklin Concludes On A High Note

Governor Bill Haslam addressed industry professionals at the closing luncheon of the 2013 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Franklin and recognized tourism as one of the leading industries in the state.

“Totaling more than $16 billion in economic impact and employing more than 146,000 Tennesseans are impressive accomplishments for...

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Ardmore Named Welcome Center of the Year

Ardmore / Giles County Welcome Center was named Tennessee’s 2013 Welcome Center of the Year. The award was presented at the Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Franklin.

Director of Welcome Centers Pete Rosenboro presented the award to Brenda Anderson, center manager. Regional Manager Michael Ross was also on hand...

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Don't Miss the 2013 Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event

More than 3,500 attendees from 23 states and three countries are now registered to attend Tennessee’s 2013 Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event and seats are filling up fast! More than 1,700 students and teachers are confirmed for the educational programming and living history presentations.

The four-day event will feature educational...

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Special Recognition Paid to Tom Lightsey on His Retirement

After 33 years of service in state government, 23 in Tourist Development, Deputy Commissioner Tom Lightsey announced his retirement. Tom was honored during the 2013 Governor’s Conference on Tourism with a special plaque and standing ovation from the more than 400 gathered for the concluding luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 19....

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Marketing Outlook Forum in Chicago Oct. 28-30

The Travel and Tourism Research Associations Marketing Outlook Forum: A Global Perspective will take place Oct. 28-30 at The Drake Hotel in Chicago. MOF is the leading travel forecast conference combining industry networking and quality educational programs into a premier event. MOF attracts delegates from nearly all state and provincial...

Read more

TDTD Sales Talks AAA FAM and Play Tennessee

In partnership with the CVBs from Nashville, Franklin, Chattanooga, and Sevierville, the Department hosted 15 AAA/CAA auto club counselors and member representatives for the annual AAA Taste of Tennessee FAM tour Sept. 21-27. FAM participants came from all across the country and Canada. All FAM participants were quick to compliment...

Read more

Travel Journalists To Participate In TDTD Northeast Media FAM

Autumn is finally here and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development will be showcasing one of the most beautiful regions of the state, Northeast Tennessee, to a group of national travel writers on the first of two Fall 2013 Media FAMS. The tour takes place Oct. 22-27. Geiger and Associates...

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Dear Colleagues,

Two weeks ago, hundreds of tourism industry professionals gathered in Franklin for the Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism.  What an incredible three days! From the spectacular opening night in Leiper’s Fork to the closing luncheon remarks by Governor Bill Haslam, we were able to celebrate success, learn from nationally renowned speakers and plan for the future.

A great conference like this doesn’t just happen. Many thanks to John Whisenant and the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable, our hosts Mark Shore and his team at the Williamson County CVB, and to each of you who attended. If you weren’t able to attend, I hope that you can join us next year in Knoxville.

During the conference, I was pleased to give a State of the Industry annual update on the economic impact of tourism in Tennessee, hot off the press from the U.S. Travel Association. This past year our department continued to focus on three key success metrics - more visitors, staying longer and spending more.  I am delighted to report we reached all three of these goals.

For the first time in history, Tennessee tourism had a more than $16 billion economic impact in 2012, an increase of 5.2 percent over 2011! Person-stays for Tennessee increased 5.9 percent with the length of stay moving to 2.15 days. In addition, we saw a significant increase in international visitor economic impact – up 10.4 percent in 2012 to $497 million.

State and local tax collections reached a new high of $1.24 billion for tourism related businesses, which is the seventh consecutive year above $1 billion.

Our visitors are spending money every day with our attractions, hotels, restaurants, shops and more in each of our 95 counties. For Tennesseans, the $1 billion in local and state sales tax revenue means more dollars that can be used for education, public safety and other essential services that can’t pay for themselves. These numbers show that we are reaching our goal of more visitors to Tennessee, who are staying longer and spending more. For a more in-depth look at the numbers and the department’s initiatives, click here to read the 2013-14 Tennessee Tourism Roadmap. 

Technology is a driving force in attracting visitors. The focal point of our marketing is tnvacation.com which saw an increase of more than 1 million visitors – 18 percent – to 5.9 million from August 1, 2012 to July 31, 2013. Visits to our mobile sites are growing rapidly with an increase of more than 65 percent over last year.

These numbers speak volumes to the success of our industry, but perhaps even more significant is the visitor’s perception of Tennessee. Visitors rated the satisfaction and value for their Tennessee vacation higher than the national average. Providing meaningful, enjoyable experiences that are of value to visitors remains the most important thing our industry can do to transform them into life-long fans of Tennessee. Congratulations on making this happen every day!

As we celebrate success from 2012, our industry is looking to the future with the launch of the Tennessee Tourism Committee’s strategic plan. Colin Reed, TTC chairman, presented the plan during the conference, laying out the mission and roadmap created by industry partners and our department to grow and enhance Tennessee’s tourism industry. I want to thank each of our committee members for their dedication of time and expertise over the last two years. I invite you to take the time to read the new strategic plan. For more information, visit http://tntourismcommittee.com/

During the conference, we were able to personally thank Governor Haslam for his incredible support for our department and the industry. Again, I would like to thank the Governor and the Tennessee General Assembly for the $8 million increase in the marketing budget that will allow us to reach an even greater audience. 

I have never been more excited and energized by the future of Tennessee tourism than I am today. It has been my great honor to serve as Tennessee’s Tourism Commissioner for the past 10 years. I look forward to celebrating even more success with you in the future.

With great respect,


Susan Whitaker

a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Featured Article 

2013 Tourism Conference In Franklin Concludes On A High Note

Governor Bill Haslam addressed industry professionals at the closing luncheon of the 2013 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Franklin and recognized tourism as one of the leading industries in the state.

“Totaling more than $16 billion in economic impact and employing more than 146,000 Tennesseans are impressive accomplishments for our tourism industry,” Gov. Haslam said. “Tennessee’s natural beauty and world-class attractions draw millions to our state, but it is the front-line people in tourism, providing outstanding customer service, who keep them coming back. I commend the whole industry on these great achievements.”

Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker presented her annual state of the industry address Wednesday, announcing the economic impact numbers of Tennessee as reported by the U.S. Travel Association.

“Tourism expenditures saw a 5.2 percent increase over last year. These are visitors spending money every day with our attractions, hotels, restaurants, shops and more in each of our 95 counties,” said TDTD Commissioner Susan Whitaker. “More importantly, our tourists generated more than $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue for the seventh straight year. For Tennesseans, this means more dollars that can be used for education, public safety and other essential services that can’t pay for themselves.”

“Our growth is coming not only from an increase in domestic travelers but also visitors around the globe, who spent $497 million last year – an increase of 10.4 percent,” said Whitaker. “These numbers show that we are reaching our goal of more visitors to Tennessee, who are staying longer and spending more.”

The 2013 conference featured some of the nation’s top branding and marketing experts Duane Knapp and Kelly McDonald. Perhaps the most talked about and truly inspirational event of the conference was young Jake Olson and co-author McKay Christensen’s stirring presentation during Wednesday’s luncheon.

TTR’s John Whisenant took the platform on Thursday to honor Governor Haslam with the Champion of Tourism Award. He tapped Ray Ogle to present TTR Board Chair Brenda McCroskey, Sevierville Chamber CEO, the Knight of the Roundtable Award. Retiring Tourism Deputy Commissioner Tom Lightsey was also honored for his years of service.

Tourism Committee Chair Colin Reed presented the 2013 Strategic Plan, a collaboration between the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the Tennessee Tourism Committee. The mission and vision statements are the bedrock of this important document, designed to help move the needle on Tennessee’s already successful tourism industry.

Conference host, the Williamson County CVB, raised the bar showcasing the many tourism assets in the county. The opening conference day kicked-off with an on-site Super Seminar “From Eye Sore to Attraction” which took attendees to the Factory at Franklin and Franklin Theatre. Attendees closed the opening day with a night to remember in Leiper’s Fork.

“We were honored that Williamson County could host the Governor’s Conference on Tourism this year,” said Mark Shore, executive director, Williamson County CVB. “The bar has been raised for future conferences by having some of the nation’s leading experts on tourism as keynote speakers. For the first time the conference hosted two super-marketing seminars. Franklin is nationally recognized for historic site and land preservation with a focus on economic impact through tourism and our community provided best-practice examples for conference attendees to experience first-hand. The powerful news regarding tourisms economic impact was an encouraging finish to the three day conference."

Make plans to attend the 2014 Governor’s Conference on Tourism to be held in Knoxville.

Ardmore Named Welcome Center of the Year

Ardmore / Giles County Welcome Center was named Tennessee’s 2013 Welcome Center of the Year. The award was presented at the Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Franklin.

Director of Welcome Centers Pete Rosenboro presented the award to Brenda Anderson, center manager. Regional Manager Michael Ross was also on hand to celebrate the award. Veteran Regional Manager Janice Rich, recently retired, also joined her former colleagues during the awards presentation.

“The staff here deserves the credit for our center to be chosen Welcome Center of the Year,” said Manager Brenda Anderson. “It is such a beautiful place to work. We try to focus on every person who walks through the door making them feel like a guest instead of a visitor. I feel honored to be a part of the Tennessee tourism team.”

The newly-built Ardmore Welcome Center opened in 2011 and is located on I-65 northbound in Giles County.

Don't Miss the 2013 Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event

More than 3,500 attendees from 23 states and three countries are now registered to attend Tennessee’s 2013 Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event and seats are filling up fast! More than 1,700 students and teachers are confirmed for the educational programming and living history presentations.

The four-day event will feature educational symposiums, book signings, special speaker-led ticketed tours, living history demonstrations and musical performances at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

Amy Murrell Taylor, PhD, associate professor of history at University of Kentucky, will provide the keynote address, 7-8:30 p.m. EDT, Oct. 10. The keynote’s topic will be “On the Frontlines of Freedom: The Story of the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camps in Tennessee and the Nation.” In addition, the Signature Event will feature speaker discussions by America’s foremost historians on the Battles for Chattanooga, including the “Battles for Chattanooga,” “Military Strategy in the Civil War” and “Civil War Commemoration and Memorialization.”

The event will feature several musical performances including the singing of the National Anthem by The McCallie Select Mens Ensemble, a free concert by Bobby Horton, Civil War historian and performer, and Civil War era music presented by The Chattanooga Musicianers.

The Signature Event is jointly sponsored by the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Tennessee Historical Society, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, The Friends of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Register today for this important event by email at tn.civilwar150@tn.gov or call the registration line 615-532-7520. All Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission sponsored events are free and open to the public.

Special Recognition Paid to Tom Lightsey on His Retirement

After 33 years of service in state government, 23 in Tourist Development, Deputy Commissioner Tom Lightsey announced his retirement. Tom was honored during the 2013 Governor’s Conference on Tourism with a special plaque and standing ovation from the more than 400 gathered for the concluding luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 19.

TDTD hosted a reception for Tom the following Monday, with the Department gathering to celebrate Tom’s significant contribution to tourism. Friends from other state agencies stopped by to wish Tom well.

Commissioner Susan Whitaker honored Tom with special remarks and presented him with a framed state flag that had flown over the Tennessee State Capitol. “Tom’s dedication to our department and Tennessee tourism is an example of true professionalism,” said Commissioner Whitaker. “He has provided great leadership to tourism and personal guidance to me for the past 10 years. Tom will definitely be missed!”

Tom began his career in state government in 1973 in Finance and Administration and moved to TDTD in 1982 just in time for the World’s Fair in Knoxville, which Tom names as one of the highlights of his career. Additional important highpoints during Tom’s 23 years include Tennessee Homecoming ’86, the launch of Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways, and the state’s Civil War 150th initiative.

Tom comments about the past 10 years as part of Susan Whitaker’s staff, “It was an honor to be part of Commissioner Whitaker’s team. We’ve had great new energy and raised the level of professionalism in tourism. I’ve been glad to be a part of that!”

He continued, “When you enjoy what you do, it makes life easier and work easier. It’s hard to find a time to leave. Now I’m going to enjoy being a tourist on a full time basis.”

Marketing Outlook Forum in Chicago Oct. 28-30

The Travel and Tourism Research Associations Marketing Outlook Forum: A Global Perspective will take place Oct. 28-30 at The Drake Hotel in Chicago. MOF is the leading travel forecast conference combining industry networking and quality educational programs into a premier event. MOF attracts delegates from nearly all state and provincial tourism offices in the U.S. and Canada, international tourism offices, airlines and hotels, as well as many travel industry suppliers. Patricia Gray will represent TDTD at the conference.

Additional details and registration information is available here: http://www.ttra.com/events/marketing-outlook-forum/

Founded in 1970, the Travel and Tourism Research Association is a non-profit association whose purpose is to enhance the quality, value, effectiveness and use of research in travel marketing, planning and development. The Association strives to be a leader for the global community of practitioners and educators engaged in research, information management and marketing in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. TTRA creates business opportunities for members and provides a unique multi-sector industry network.

TDTD Sales Talks AAA FAM and Play Tennessee

In partnership with the CVBs from Nashville, Franklin, Chattanooga, and Sevierville, the Department hosted 15 AAA/CAA auto club counselors and member representatives for the annual AAA Taste of Tennessee FAM tour Sept. 21-27. FAM participants came from all across the country and Canada. All FAM participants were quick to compliment each venue and host throughout the six day tour. Much appreciation goes out to each of the host cities, their attractions, and hotel partners who ensured another successful and very well-received group of AAA/CAA guests.

During the recently held 2013 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism, 23 partners from across the state conducted a sports-focused meeting to discuss the future of the Play Tennessee initiative. After positive exchanges and feedback were offered around the table about organizational structure, membership options, and direction, it was determined that next steps will need to include, among other topics, creation of a strategic plan and Tennessee partnership/membership standards. Committees will be forming soon, so if you are interested in being a part of the Play Tennessee partnership/membership standards discussion, please contact Jud Teague, executive director of the Kingsport CVB, at jud@visitkingsport.com, or email Bennjin at Bennjin.Lao@tn.gov.

Travel Journalists To Participate In TDTD Northeast Media FAM

Autumn is finally here and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development will be showcasing one of the most beautiful regions of the state, Northeast Tennessee, to a group of national travel writers on the first of two Fall 2013 Media FAMS. The tour takes place Oct. 22-27. Geiger and Associates is coordinating the FAM with the assistance of partners throughout the region.

More than 15 journalists will travel to Tennessee to experience the “Fall’s Splendor Along the Sunny Side Trail” tour including Jason Davis, editor of AAA Going Places, Juie Burnham, editor of AAA Living, Tom Wilmer, The Travel Show, and Renee Gordon, The Philadelphia Sun.

The tour will include a stop at Tennessee’s oldest city, Jonesborough, with its brick-lined streets, shops and the historic town square that have visitors traveling back in time to 1776. Jonesborough is also home to webs of tales that are spun each year at the International Storytelling Festival. The media will be brought back to the 21st century in a thunderous way as they’ll make a stop at Bristol Motor Speedway, “the world’s fastest half mile!”

Other awesome sites on the tour will include Kingsport’s charming downtown area with its galleries, specialty shops and antique stores; the Exchange Place, a living history farm in Kingsport; the Gray Fossil Site at East Tennessee State University Natural History Museum and Visitor Center; Fender’s Farm; the Adventure Course in Greeneville; Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium; the Davy Crockett Tavern Museum and so much more.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, writers will travel to Morristown to experience the Mountain Makins Festival, one of Tennessee’s celebrated fall events.

Tennessee travel writer FAMS during FY102-13 saw a total circulation of 145,730,320 and are a key component to TDTD’s national PR efforts.

Industry Trends

<p><strong>Tennessee&rsquo;s 2012 Economic Impact Report Available Online</strong></p>
<p>The Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee Counties 2013 report is now available to be viewed and downloaded online. The study was conducted by the Research Department of the U.S. Travel Association for the <strong>Tennessee Department of Tourist Development</strong>. The document provides preliminary 2012 and 2011 estimates of domestic and international traveler expenditures in Tennessee, as well as the employment, payroll income, and federal, state and local tax revenue directly generated by these expenditures. Total impact of travel on output, employment and payroll income (including indirect and induced impact) is also included.</p>
<p>Additionally, this study provides estimates by county for domestic travel expenditures, as well as employment, payroll income, and state and local tax revenue directly generated by domestic travel. For the entire report, go to <a href="http://www.tnvacation.com/industry/toolkits-research/">http://www.tnvaca... and click on The Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee Counties 2013.</p>

Industry Spotlight