Dear Industry Partners,
I always look forward to September, and never more than this year. The unusually hot weather will soon give way to that first welcomed breeze of fall!
September also brings our 2007 Governor’s Conference on Tourism. On September 19-21 the tourism industry will converge on beautiful "Chattanooga, A Great City by Nature,” for three days of networking, educational seminars, the state-of-the industry address and the Governor’s luncheon. This year’s event will feature nationally renowned tourism authority, Dennis Snow, as the keynote speaker, who will provide cutting edge trends on customer service. The Governor’s Conference is an important event in the life of our industry. Let me encourage all of you to join us in Chattanooga.
The 2007 Tourism Conference introduces several new activities. We will have our first Super Seminar featuring the highly acclaimed Judy Randall, who will present a jam-packed, three-hour session on the latest tourism marketing ideas. Also, the “Great Ideas! Fair” and “Spotlight Awards,” will showcase some very unique and creative concepts resulting in a “Spotlight Award" that will be presented for the first time. Our Thursday night event will be the “Tennessee Tourism & Hospitality Awards,” which will feature presentations of awards from TH& LA, TRA and TTR as well as the TACVB Spotlight Awards. And of course, our first in many years combined Tourism and Hospitality EXPO, which will have many suppliers of products and services from the tourism and hospitality industry. For registration information go to www.tenntourismroundtable.com and read more about the conference in a featured article in this newsletter.
As we make plans for our industry, let me give you an update on our Summer Marketing Road Show. We presented the marketing plan in eight cities across the state that included Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis, Crossville, Gatlinburg, Knoxville, Kingsport and Jackson. Reaction to the plan has been very encouraging and we look forward to partnerships in everything from print ads to internet marketing to the Tennessee Sampler and much more. We are continuously looking for new and creative ways to promote Tennessee. Our goal is simple; get more people to visit our great state and encourage them to stay longer.
I am very grateful to the organizations that helped facilitate these meetings and to Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Spence and the other members of the Tourism Department who worked so diligently to make these events successful. As always it was a team effort with staff and industry partners.
I look forward to seeing you at the 2007 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism later this month. Thanks, in advance, to everyone who is working hard behind the scenes to make the event a great experience for us all.
See you in Chattanooga,
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
2007 Governor’s Conference on Tourism
Awards Night is Center Stage
The 2007 Governor's Conference on Tourism in Chattanooga is expected to be another great event this year. It will feature several new activities including the industry-wide EXPO, featuring vendors from all sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industry; the Super Seminar, featuring the highly acclaimed travel expert, Judy Randall; the Tennessee Tourism & Hospitality Awards program and the Great Ideas! Fair" and Spotlight Awards.
The "Great Ideas! Fair" and "Spotlight Awards," present a great opportunity to share unique and creative projects. Participants from all areas of the industry are encouraged to submit their creative and innovative work to the "Great Ideas! Fair."
Entries will be judged while on display on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning and the absolute best will be in the spotlight on Thursday night and honored with the first-ever "Spotlight Award." This event provides an opportunity for a tourism-related business or organization to take home an award judged by fellow-industry experts that showcases a successful and innovative idea.
For registration and participation information, go to the TTR Web site at tenntourismroundtable.com or call the TACVB at 615-254-1233.
Ocoee River Rafting Fun
First Lady Andrea Conte, enjoys tourism in Tennessee with a rafting trip down the scenic Ocoee River.
A rafting trip in East Tennessee has provided visitors the perfect way to cool-off from the summer heat. The Upper Ocoee, site of the 1996 Olympic Whitewater Competition, has challenged some of the best rafters in the world.
Take a Ride with Elvis
Elvis invites you to have a rockin' and rollin' time with him in Tennessee through our new interactive audio enhancement on tnvacation.com
"Take a Tennessee Road Trip with Elvis and Friends" now utilizes the latest technology to personally invite visitors, in a voice that sounds a lot like "Elvis," to take a ride through Tennessee. This new Web site enhancement is just another way to encourage tourists to visit our state, and was added to continue to build upon the success of the Dolly and Elvis Road Trip campaign.
We invite you to create your own personalized road trip with Elvis. Enjoy the ride!
Tennessee Tourism Professionals Grow with the Industry
Representatives from the state’s tourism industry joined with other professionals the last week in July to participate in the 16th Annual Southeast Tourism Society’s (STS) Marketing College. The professional development program, for one week each summer, turns the facilities of North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, Ga., into a laboratory to teach tourism marketing. Students who have completed three annual sessions are awarded the Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) certification.
Tourism ranks as the largest non-agricultural industry in Tennessee, leading to the impressive participation from the state’s three grand regions. Students from numerous industry sectors attended, including convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, attractions, restaurants and hotels. Staff from the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (TDTD) and Tennessee State Parks also participated.
“Marketing College was a tremendous experience,” said Rachel Baker, tourism director at the Hardin County CVB. ”Everyone should participate, especially those who wish to continue to learn.” Course topics included special events marketing, media relations, tourism advertising, vacation research and crisis management. Courses in heritage tourism and community/rural tourism have also attracted special interest in recent years.
Sheryl Ellis, marketing director for the Sumner County CVB, appreciates the wealth of knowledge, but for a second year student and a 15 year tourism veteran, Marketing College’s greatest asset is networking. “I am building a network of tourism professionals and friends that I can call on the other 51 weeks in the year.”
More than 25 senior executives in the travel and tourism industry made up the volunteer faculty, including Judy Randall, president of Randall Travel Marketing and Lee Curtis, director of sales for the TDTD. Randall will present a three-hour Tourism Marketing Super Seminar on Wednesday, September 19th during the opening day of the 2007 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Chattanooga.
Enrollment for the three-year curriculum was up 26 percent from 2006. The program began in 1992, and 368 people have completed the curriculum and earned certification as Tourism Marketing Professionals (TMP).
“The sheer number of students shows there is a hunger for professional travel and tourism education for working professionals,” said Bill Hardman, president and chief executive officer of STS. “Our curriculum is practical. What students learn can be put to practice as soon as they get back to their workplaces.”
The 2008 Marketing College will, once again, be held in July. Visit the STS Web site for the announcement of next year’s highly anticipated week of learning, networking and making new friends.
Bristol Welcome Center
In August, Bristol, TN. transforms from the small town of 47,000 to the NASCAR fan-filled home of more than 200,000 visitors. To assist the visitors in their travels to the Bristol 500 weekend and the "World's Fastest Half Mile" is the Tennessee Welcome Center located on I-81 along the Tennessee - Virginia boarder.
As people arrive at the rebuilt 46,000 square-foot facility, Welcome Center Manager Jim Bibbee and the team of staffers see to it that travelers receive information on accommodations and attractions in the area. Jim, a 10-year employee at the center, has served as its manager since 2004. "There's not a hotel or motel room available within 150 miles of Bristol for the race weekend," said Bibbee.
According to Tami Giles in the Welcome Center Division of TDTD, the Bristol Center, which was originally built in 1969, was replaced with the new cabin-style center at a cost of $2.5 million in August 2001. In 2005 the Bristol visitation reached 2,812,982, the highest visitation of all 13 welcome centers.
Welcome Center Employee of the Month
Precious Banks, of the I-40 Shelby County Welcome Center in Memphis, is the Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for August 2007. Precious has been a Welcome Center Assistant at the I-40 Center for six years. Precious seems to be a perfect fit for the job of Welcome Center Assistant. "I love to talk to people, to meet and greet the public," she said.
This shows in her work, as many tourists have written to tell us how helpful Precious is to those who visit the I-40 Center.
"Ms. Precious was extremely helpful and polite," one tourist said. Another tourist commented "Precious does an outstanding job...she's excellent in what she does." Precious said most of the questions she's asked about Memphis relate to Mud Island, Graceland and Beale Street.
Graceland anoints 'first king' of Elvis Pretenders
Managers of Elvis Presley's Graceland anointed their first "Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist," ending a worldwide search for a Presley pretender to wear their official crown. The new make-believe King is Shawn Klush, a 38-year-old Elvis impersonator from Pittston, PA. "It's unbelievable," Klush said of the victory. "It's an overwhelming experience, and it couldn't be in a better place." Klush was chosen at a concert hall in downtown Memphis in the championship round of a series of tribute contests held around the world.
The Peabody Hotel, Memphis
Elvis honored on Duck Walk
As part of the annual Elvis Week celebration in Memphis, The Peabody Hotel inducted Elvis Presley into the Duck Walk Hall of Fame. Priscilla Presley accepted the induction on behalf of her ex-husband. Commemorative plaques feature bronze duck footprints with the name of the inductee. The Duck Walk is located along Union Avenue and Second Street in the sidewalk outside The Peabody Hotel.
Chickamauga District added to National Register
The Chickamauga Historic District was added to the National Register, a national list of properties in the U.S. that are worthy of preserving. The listing fits into the city's push to promote heritage tourism.
Ober Gatlinburg is Tops
TripAdvisor®, the world's largest travel community, announced the top 10 amusement parks in the U.S., according to traveler popularity and TripAdvisor editors. Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and Amusement Park ranked no. 8. An amazing scenic aerial tramway up to Ober Gatlinburg gets visitors started in style, Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and Amusement Park gives patrons everything: skiing, indoor skating, restaurants, an alpine slide, a pirate ship and fun house, go-karts, mini golf, a shooting range, water raft rides and a black bear habitat.
Preserve America Taps Blount County
Blount County has been named a Preserve America Community, one of only a few hundred in the U.S. and the fifth community and only county with the designation in Tennessee. Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau, said “It’s a national program and puts us in a national light and it can be used as leverage to pursue other programs.”
The Hermitage, Nashville
Tourism Cares Makes Restoration Grant
Tourism Cares has awarded The Hermitage, home and farm of General Andrew Jackson, a prestigious restoration grant. The award provides funding to restore the home of President Jackson in order to help keep that heritage alive for future generations of visitors to this popular Nashville attraction. Tourism Cares distributes grants to worthy nonprofit organizations around the world in an effort to sustain their history and culture.
Nashville listed among 10 Best Cities For African-Americans
Nashville continues on Black Enterprise’s Top 10 Cities for African-Americans. The 2007 ranking offers some major changes and repositioning in comparison to the 2001 and 2004 lists, however Nashville remains. Nashville, among other cities, promises a trove of business, professional and personal opportunities.
Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, Commissioner
Susan Whitaker, Mary Beth Hopper
and Henry Harrison
Southwest Tennessee Tourism Association elects new officers
The Tourism Association of Southwest Tennessee recently elected its 2007-2008 Executive Committee and Board of Directors at the organization’s annual meeting held at the International Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame.
The new chairperson for the coming year is Tanya Irwin-Race Director for the Pickwick Challenge powerboat races, Vice Chair Deborah Shaw Laman-marketing director for Brooks Shaw's Old Country Store and Casey Jones Village, Secretary-O'Neal Odhav of Country Inn & Suites and Treasurer-Tony Altman with Chickasaw Chalet.
The meeting was held in conjunction with Commissioner Susan Whitaker's visit to present the 2007-2008 marketing campaign for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the annual International Rock-a-Billy Festival.
USA Southeast Tourism Pick Top September Events (TravelVideo TV)
Tennessee events include: Sept. 2, Boomsday, Live entertainment, food, and fun and games on the Tennessee River in a Labor Day celebration with the largest fireworks show in the US. Knoxville, TN., Sept. 7 - 16; Tennessee Valley Fair, daily headliner entertainment, agriculture & livestock exhibits, great fair food, rides and attractions make for a good time for all at the fair.
World Tourism Day
TIA invites the tourism industry to join cities, states and nations around the globe in saluting World Tourism Day on September 27, 2007. This special day was developed by the U.N. World Tourism Organization to share the power of travel and engage local audiences on the unique role of travel and tourism.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You