- Upcoming Web Assistance Tour Dates
- April 9th, Bell Buckle
- May 1st, Jefferson County
- May 2nd, Morristown
Meet the Commissioner
Susan Whitaker, Tourism Commissioner
Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Tennessee Department of Tourist Development
Susan Whitaker, a veteran tourism marketing executive, was appointed Commissioner of Tourist Development in January of 2011 by Governor Bill Haslam. Whitaker was initially appointed to the position in 2003 by Governor Phil Bredesen, and reappointed under his administration in 2007.
In this role, Whitaker is responsible for marketing Tennessee’s tourism industry domestically and internationally. Tourism is one of Tennessee’s largest industries, providing a $15.36 billion direct economic impact and generating more than $1 billion annually in state and local sales tax revenue for the past six years. Tennessee is now ranked 9th among all states in total travel.
Whitaker oversees the development and implementation of statewide tourism’s comprehensive marketing, publicity and promotions campaigns, all designed to stimulate growth of tourism in Tennessee. Of note is the state’s award-winning consumer website, tnvacation.com, as well as the state’s 14 Welcome Centers.
Under Whitaker’s leadership, the Department of Tourist Development launched the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program. The program features 16 comprehensive, statewide trails that guide visitors from Tennessee’s big cities to off-the beaten path attractions throughout the state. This initiative includes all of Tennessee’s 95 counties as well as the state’s five National Scenic Byways.
As the co-chair of Tennessee’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, Whitaker is a strategic part of the planning and overseeing of Tennessee’s 150th Civil War commemoration. In preparation for this Civil War milestone, Whitaker launched the Tennessee Civil War Trails Program. To date, markers are in place at more than 260 Civil War sites throughout the state with a goal to have the trail go into every Tennessee county. The Commission is also responsible for annual Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature events during the 150th commemoration.
Whitaker launched Tennessee’s Sustainable Tourism initiative with the 2008 Great Smoky Mountain Sustainable Tourism Summit, positioning the state as a national leader in sustainable tourism. Further outgrowth of the Summit has been Tennessee’s launch of a sustainable tourism website, featuring a complete online toolbox, 10 statewide sustainable tourism workshops as well as a six-part webinar series. Tennessee’s program has been recognized by U.S. Travel Association as a national best practice and included on the travelgreen.org website.
Whitaker serves on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Travel Association and in 2013 was elected to serve as Secretary of the Board. She also serves on the Travel South USA Board of Directors, the National Council of State Travel Directors, the University of Tennessee’s Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management Advisory Board, Tennessee Tourism Committee and the Governor’s International Advisory Council. She serves as the co-chair of Tennessee’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission as well as the Tennessee State Fair Commission and is a member of the Smoky Mountains Park Commission.
Whitaker is a Chicago native and a direct descendent of Tennessee’s first Governor, John Sevier. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Prior to her state cabinet post, Whitaker served as vice president of marketing for Dollywood, Tennessee’s most visited attraction. Throughout her career, Whitaker has received many awards and honors, including the Telly and Addy Awards for her broadcast and advertising work.
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