This time last year I wrote about attending ESTO, U.S. Travel Association’s Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations, and learning more about the next major trend in marketing and public relations called “social media.” Just one short year later, the Department of Tourist Development is helping lead the social media revolution in the travel and tourism industry, currently ranking fifth among all 50 states in social media effectiveness according to Gammet Interactive. Now that’s a good start and we will continue to strive to move up that chart!
At ESTO 2011, social media was still a hot topic for good reason. In our budget-conscious environment, the “no cost, no fees” aspect of it is a major motivator to embrace this new medium wholeheartedly. Some of social’s most popular outlets – Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, blogs and mobile apps – are simply “word of mouth at lightning speed.” Let me encourage you to keep moving forward with today’s technology. It is smart, effective and relatively inexpensive.
Getting the word out about what we have to offer continues to be the key to success for the tourism industry. Tennessee tourism’s teamwork recently resulted in a very exciting collaboration with National Geographic to bring their highly acclaimed Music Voyager television series to our state. As a result, “Music Highway Tennessee,” a three-part documentary series, will be produced for worldwide broadcast. The series follows Interstate 40 across the entire state, with a few side trips, to highlight Tennessee’s amazing music, culture, attractions, cuisine, people and countryside, with main stops in Bristol, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis.
This programming will begin airing in February 2012 all over the globe, just in time to create visibility for Tennessee as the new nationally-funded U.S. marketing campaign gets ready to launch. Judging from the reaction of Farook Singh, the executive producer, and his crew, the footage and the performances captured are stunning, certain to create a lot of new international interest in visiting Tennessee.
We have a calendar full of important industry events coming up in the next couple of months, starting with the 2011 Tennessee Hospitality Conference and Exposition taking place Sept. 6-8 at the beautiful Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro. Greg Adkins, CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association, and his team have put together an outstanding schedule of events. This year’s expo will feature the first open proctor session for the Certified Guest Service Professional program. Download the schedule for the three-day conference here.
I am especially looking forward to this year’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism which will take place Oct. 5-7 in Memphis. John Whisenant, executive director of the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable, and the conference committee led by Calvin Taylor, vice president of government relations for the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau, have put together an outstanding program of events. It will be an opportunity to get up to speed on the latest industry news and trends from world-class experts such as Diane Shober, my brilliant counterpart in Wyoming who was appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to serve on the Council for Travel Promotion, now responsible for creating the U.S.’s new international marketing campaign that I mentioned earlier. We are also pleased to have Michael D. Gehrisch, president and CEO of Destination Marketing Association International and Joe Veneto of Opportunities Unlimited coming to discuss what you need to know to be successful in this business climate.
I am delighted to report that Colin Reed, chairman and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment, will be able to attend to share the goals and progress of his Governor-appointed committee on tourism. We are honored to have this industry giant with us this year.
The Governor’s Conference is always a wonderful time to network with fellow industry members, sharing what’s working in today’s economy (and what’s not). Certainly some of that networking will take place at Memphis’s opening night extravaganza and their Thursday night block party – I can’t wait to see what they have planned!
In my Tourism ‘State of the State,’ I will be reporting on our industry, our 2011/2012 marketing plan and the latest economic numbers from the U.S. Travel Association which, I can promise you, will be cause for celebration for this incredible tourism industry.
One of the privileges of serving in this job is co-chairing the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission with Dr. Carroll Van West, director of MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. This group of distinguished men and women from across the state has been meeting regularly since 2009 to plan and execute a body of work that would tell a more complete story of this watershed period in our history. The results of this strategic plan have already been excellent.
I hope you can join me and the members of the commission on Sept. 6-7 at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville for the 2011 Sesquicentennial Signature Event. Among the many highlights will be a special appearance by celebrity Kix Brooks, keynote presentations by noted Civil War scholars and living history re-enactments. Hundreds of area school children will be attending the living history event, which includes re-enactors from Sons of Confederate Veterans and the U.S. Colored Troops. http://tnvacation.com/civil-war/
On a more local Tennessee note, I hope you can take some time to enjoy Labor Day, Tennessee style. The National Folk Festival will take place on Nashville’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall starting at 7 p.m. on Friday throughout the weekend. If you are in the Knoxville area on Sunday, Sept. 4, Boomsday is not to be missed. It’s America’s largest Labor Day fireworks spectacular and Dollywood is making a special announcement there! And if you are fortunate enough to be in West Tennessee, think about me when you are eating some delicious Memphis BBQ and enjoying the music on Beale Street. What can I say – it’s GOOD to be in Tennessee!
Looking forward to seeing you next month in Memphis!
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
A Time to Remember: The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event
Mark your calendars for the second annual Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event, taking place Sept. 6 and 7 at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. The theme for the event is “Civil War in the Borderland.”
This is a unique opportunity to come together and remember the role Tennessee played in the Civil War. The event will portray the hardships of the soldiers through reenactments, define the cause, meaning and stories of the War through notable speakers and provide participants with the opportunity to preserve Civil War memorabilia through the Looking Back project. In addition, there will be a posting of the Colors for the United States of America and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a musical performance by the Tennessee Tech Chorale in addition to living history demonstrations. Kix Brooks will provide special remarks.
This event is targeting Tennesseans of all ages, including more than 1,000 school children who will be attending the special reenactments. Sponsors include The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Tennessee State Museum. Please visit tncivilwar150.com for further details and a complete list of statewide Civil War events.
Outstanding Educational Seminars to be Offered at Governor’s Conference in Memphis
One of the highlights of the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism is the outstanding educational and professional development opportunities that are offered, and this year’s conference is no exception. In addition to the Tourism Marketing Super Seminar on Oct. 5 and the excellent keynote speakers featured throughout the conference, this year’s conference will feature a number of informative educational seminars sure to help attendees “take care of business.”
Among the seminar topics being offered are:
* Adventure Tourism
Adventure tourism is an important and fast-growing part of the leisure travel industry, generating $89 billion in travel expenditures in the United States in 2010. A very relevant topic for Tennessee! This seminar will help define ways to develop and market adventure tourism activities and how adventure tourism can successfully assist in the preservation and protection of the state’s natural resources.
* Developing an Effective Social Media Marketing Plan: Tips, Tactics and Best Practices
Facebook, Twitter, blogs, microblogs, podcasts and more: social networking now accounts for 22 percent of all time spent online in the U.S. This seminar will outline the basics of developing such a plan and will look at the most successful methods in use in the travel industry.
* Partnering Tourism with Tennessee’s New Four-Point Economic Development Plan
Governor Haslam recently announced the new statewide “JOBS4TN Economic Development” plan that outlines four key strategies to be used in local areas and regions across the state. In this seminar, you will be given strategies and suggestions about how your local tourism organization can partner with these new economic development plans.
* Making Strong Connections Between Print Advertising and Your Website
Are the worlds of print advertising and web-based marketing completely separate? Not if they are planned correctly. This seminar will provide you with insight into making those strong connections, tracking the results and maximizing your return on investment.
* Tourism Turn-Arounds: Being Successful by Thinking Outside the Box
Yes, the current economic times are challenging for all businesses – and travel-related businesses are no exception. You will be inspired and challenged by this seminar that will feature several Tennessee tourism businesses that have been successful by “doing new things in new ways” – and in most cases, without a lot of money!
* Industry Segment Open Discussion Forums
These open discussion forums will provide you with the opportunity to dialogue with your industry peers on current issues and trends, common problems and solutions and to share successful ideas and best practices by industry segment: Destination Management/Marketing Organizations, Attractions and Lodging & Dining.
REGISTRATION FOR THE GOVERNOR’S CONFERENCE IS STILL OPEN. For more information on the conference, including schedule, lodging and registration, visit the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable website.
The Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism is produced by the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
Full Steam Ahead With the Trails!
As the year continues, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is proud to announce that we’re right on schedule with the launch of remaining trails in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program.
Just last month, the Pie in the Sky Trail had a successful launch in Chattanooga. Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker, state and local dignitaries and members of the tourism industry and community
were on hand at the new Chattanooga Visitors Center to officially open the seventh of 16 self-guided driving trails. And with the tagline, “MoonPies® to Mountain Highs,” what better way to celebrate than with the “World’s Largest MoonPie®” provided by Chattanooga Bakery!
September 30 has been set as the launch date for the Great River Road National Scenic Byway and Discover Tennessee trail. The official ceremony and party will begin at 4 p.m. on Mud Island located on the Mighty Mississippi River in Memphis. Diana Threadgill and her team promise an exciting evening of Mississippi River entertainment.
Participating in the launch celebration will be Commissioner Susan Whitaker, representatives from the Tennessee Department of Transportation along with other state agencies and state and local elected officials.
Great River Road National Scenic Byway spans 10 states, from the Mississippi River’s headwaters in Minnesota all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The Tennessee leg of the journey gives travelers a great opportunity to encounter natural areas, the Delta Blues, Civil War history and so much more. From Memphis to Reelfoot, this 240-plus- mile driving trail offers a glimpse into life on the Mighty Mississippi.
Development of the remaining Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways continues at a rapid pace as the TDTD marketing team works closely with the local trail committee members to complete this major tourism initiative. Based on the status for each trail, timing of rollout, alternating regions, and already confirmed dates - a schedule of the launch events has been set. Exact dates will be announced as committees meet to finalize the plans.
Sept. 30, 2011 - Great River Road
Oct. 12, 2011 - Promised Land
Oct. 20, 2011 - Ring of Fire
Oct. 28, 2011 - Rocky Top
Nov. 4, 2011 - Tennessee River Trail
Nov. 17, 2011 - Tanasi
March 2012 - Cotton Junction
April 2012 - Screaming Eagle
June 16, 2012 - Top Secret
Music Voyager Highlights Tennessee Sounds
Music Voyager is a music and travel television program that invites viewers to discover the most exciting sounds and captivating artists on the planet. "Music Highway Tennessee"will include three episodes: East, Middle and West. The series will followHighway 40 from Bristol through to Memphis. The recent filming took place across the state, capturing the music, culture, adventures, cuisine, people and countryside, with main stops in Bristol, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville.
The broadcast will begin in February 2012 and will air in 140 countries, in 33 languages and reach more than 170 million homes across the world. TDTD and the participating partners will have access to more than 40 hours of b-roll from the 16-day shoot across the state.
The participating partners included the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation, Chattanooga Area CVB, Nashville CVB, Williamson County CVB, Franklin Theatre and the Memphis CVB. The ground crew began filming in Nashville on Aug. 11 and completed the filming process by rejoining with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development to add the final signatures to the Music Highway Tennessee guitar.
Tennessee Tourism Sales Update
On the sales front, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development recently attended the annual Student Youth Travel Association Conference in New York City. More than 70 student youth-focused group tour and travel tour operators attended the annual trade show. Tennessee had 25 pre-scheduled appointments during the marketplace and connected with many other operators during the conference. Approximately 33 Tennessee travel industry partners attended the conference and nearly 20 of those partners participated in the Destination Get-Together to gather and strategize on best efforts to market and attract the student youth travel market. It’s great statewide teamwork like this that really makes Tennessee stand apart from the other destinations. Thank you all!
Since SYTA 2012 will be coming to Nashville Aug. 24 - 27, 2012, the conference concluded with a taste of true Tennessee hospitality and musical flair via a Nashville CVB-hosted event. The event featured live music from amazing, nationally-recognized artists and networking with the clients.
Upcoming sales efforts include the annual AAA “Taste of Tennessee” FAM tour, which travels from the Nashville area, through Chattanooga and concludes with a Smoky Mountain experience and Pigeon Forge stay. Dates of this FAM are Sept. 24-30, 2011. Also in September, TDTD will have a presence at the Tennessee State Fair, partnering with the State Parks department to showcase our great state. Any partners interested in exhibiting at the fair Sept. 9-11 should contact TDTD at 615-741-2159.
Web Assistance Tour Continues in September
The Web Assistance Fall Tour is upon us! Check out the upcoming dates for tours in your area:
Wednesday, Sept. 21, Greeneville
Greeneville Comfort Inn
Thursday, Sept. 22, Gatlinburg
Anna Porter Public Library
Wednesday, Sept. 28, Union City
Obion County Public Library
Tuesday, Oct. 4, Memphis
Memphis Marriott Downtown
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP for the Greeneville or Union City sessions. Please indicate the location you will be attending.
Visit tnvacation.com/industry/ for available time slots for the Gatlinburg and Memphissessions.
To reserve a time slot for the Gatlinburg session email email@example.com.
To reserve a time slot for the Memphis session email Michael.Uhles@tn.gov.
Click here for more information about the Web assistance tour.
Civil War Marker Dedication Draws a Crowd
The Cheatham County Civil War Marker Dedication held Aug. 13 in Kingston Springs drew a crowd at the South Cheatham library. The community came together to support the dedication as all ages participated in the event. The event consisted of Civil War-era music provided by Fiddle & Pick with Gretchen Priest‐May, the 13th Colored Regiment re‐enactment by Norm Hill and a tour of the South Cheatham library.
The Tennessee Civil War Trails program is part of a multi-state sustainable heritage tourism program that identifies, interprets and creates driving tours of both the greater campaigns and the lesser known Civil War sites. With the upcoming Civil War sesquicentennial commemorating the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, the trails program will further highlight Civil War tourism in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development was awarded a two-part federal enhancement grant, which is an 80/20 match through the Tennessee Department of Transportation. More than 200 markers have already been installed through the program.
Employee of the Month
Helping people has been a life-long mission for our Tennessee Welcome Center Employee of the Month for August 2011.
Mary Bailey, welcome center assistant at the I-81 Sullivan County (Bristol) Welcome Center, has been with the Department of Tourist Development since 1997. Last year, Mary made 722 reservations at the Bristol Welcome Center, the second highest number of reservations made in the state!
“While I am appreciative and humbled by this honor, I find it so rewarding to help those that are traveling to Tennessee,” Bailey said.
Mary enjoys meeting the different people from all walks of life and places.
“The visitors are always a pleasure to meet,” she added. “The Welcome Center employees have always been such nice people to work with as well.”
Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.
Tennessee Top 20 Events
The best events across the Southeast compete to receive the prestigious Top 20 Events designation. Through a nomination process, Southeast Tourism Society chooses the Top 20 events in the Southeast for each month of the year and publishes this list of winners quarterly. The Top 20 Events publication is sent to more than 1,600 newspapers, magazines, radio stations, TV stations, AAA publications and others. Tennessee Top 20 Events include:
Christmas on the Cumberland – Clarksville
“A Country Christmas” at Gaylord Opryland Resort – Nashville
Fine Craft Fair Presented by the Foothills Craft Guild – Knoxville
22nd Annual Pigeon Forge Winterfest – Pigeon Forge
Ruby Falls Ruby Red Christmas – Chattanooga
The Living Christmas Tree - Knoxville
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum Welcomes Four Millionth Visitor
The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum welcomed its four millionth visitor Aug. 16.
Jerry and Wilma Van Der Veer, from Christiansburg, West Virginia, were greeted by museum staff and presented with a prize package including free museum admission and a $250 gift certificate for purchases in the Museum Store, Two Twenty-Two Grill and Hatch Show Print.
Memphis International Rated the Second Safest Airport in America
After examining airport runway safety data from the Federal Aviation Administration for the past five years, Travel & Leisure magazine has determined America’s safest airports. Of the 35 busiest U.S. commercial airports, Memphis International Airport rated the second safest of the 15 airports that made the final list.
Chandler Elected to Board
Congratulations to Wayne Chandler, Grand Ole Opry/Gaylord Entertainment, on his recent election to the Student Youth Tourism Association (SYTA) Board of Directors.
Black Bear – GSMNP
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Ranked as One of Top Places for Wildlife Viewing
Budget Travel recently ranked Great Smoky Mountains National Park among the Top 13 best places in the United States for wildlife viewing.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You