Here comes the sun! Can our winter-weary visitors be far behind? No doubt about it, people are ready for a break and looking for destinations that are economical, easily accessible and entertaining. I believe those three attributes can be found in the dictionary under “Tennessee,” so let’s get ready to exceed their expectations and give them the vacation experience they will treasure forever!
As most of you know, each of Tennessee’s Welcome Centers serve as a gateway and information hub for travelers on our interstates. I am delighted to announce the official Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting for our newest Welcome Center on I-26 in Unicoi County. The event will take place on May 14 at 1 p.m. Since its “soft” opening in February, visitors have been very impressed with both the beautiful new facility and our team’s warm hospitality. Congratulations and a big thank you to Commissioner Gerald Nicely and the Tennessee Department of Transportation who were responsible for construction of the new center. It is a terrific first impression of the State, as well as the entire tourism industry.
:pullquote:I am also pleased to announce that two more of the new Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways will launch in May thanks to the diligence and hard work of the local committees, the Department of Transportation, our Department and agency, White/Thompson. Nashville’s Trace, which originates in Nashville and travels throughout a total of eight counties surrounding the Natchez Trace, will be launched on May 11. The Sunny Side Trail & Byway will have opening ceremonies along its route on both May 13 and 14. Beginning in the Smoky Mountains and coursing through the Cherokee National Forest, the trail’s quiet back roads will lead to the hidden gems of Northeast Tennessee.
It was wonderful to have the Southeast Tourism Society hold its Spring Meeting in Nashville last month. Well-attended, the conference hosted participants from twelve Southern states, providing excellent educational sessions and a taste of greater Nashville’s world-class entertainment product. Let’s just say there were a lot of dollars spent on lower Broad and around town! Special congratulations to the nine Tennessee tourism industry professionals who earned their Marketing College Certificates and were honored at the conference.
It was also a pleasure to participate in the Tennessee Association of Museums annual meeting held in Nashville. Tennessee is very fortunate to have exceptional historical and cultural museums throughout the state that are often run by volunteers with a passion for sustaining and sharing their heritage and communities.
I am grateful to all of the industry professionals who continue to encourage and support the Department and the Tourism industry as a whole. We would not have made the strides in economic impact on Tennessee without your whole-hearted commitment to excellence and innovation.
Have a wonderful, happy and profitable spring!
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
This year’s Tennessee Sampler was anything but routine as seven teams of sales partners and three teams of PR partners embarked on a 3-day road trip to some of our state’s premier feeder markets. Close to 50 tourism partners and five TDTD staff conducted over 130 sales calls and 40 PR meetings in 16 feeder markets! This grassroots, economical approach to the 2010 Sampler provided a “big bang for a few bucks.”
The sales teams held meetings with AAA offices and key tour operators in St. Louis, Branson, Louisville, Indianapolis, Evansville, Lexington, Cincinnati, Dayton, Bristol, Roanoke, Richmond, Asheville, Greenville, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Birmingham with promising results.
"Tennessee seems to be the only people who try to get us their information on a regular basis, and we really appreciate that,” stated Donna Byrd, AAA Hendersonville, NC.
Susan Anderson with Coach America, said "WOW, you guys really know how to sell a state!"
:pullquote:The PR teams traveled to Louisville, Indianapolis, Bloomington, Lexington, Cincinnati, Columbus, Atlanta, Birmingham and Huntsville meeting with media representatives and freelance journalists. Among the publications receptive to the Tennessee tourism message were Indy’s Child, Cincinnati Parent, Columbus Dispatch, Group Travel Leader, Southern Living and many more. Huntsville Alabama afforded the Chattanooga team an on-air appearance at WAAY-TV’s midday newscast.
Although the 2010 Sampler is complete, in many ways it has just begun, as the Sampler participants continue to reach out to (and see results from) the new travel planner and PR friends made during the road trip that delivered Tennessee Tourism’s message throughout the region.
“The face to face meetings during Sampler are invaluable in selling Tennessee’s great tourism attractions, both to the travel planners and media representatives,” said Krisi Driver, director of sales for TDTD. “Another great benefit from Sampler is the relationship-building among the Tennessee Tourism partners. That is icing on the cake!”
Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways: Nashville’s Trace and Sunny Side Trail Will Launch in May
Momentum for the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways initiative continues to mount as two additional trails will be launched in May.
At 12 p.m. on May 11, Nashville’s Trace will be launched from the legendary Loveless Café, located at the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a national park and one of Tennessee’s five National Scenic Byways.
Nashville’s Trace highlights eight counties along Tennessee’s portion of the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. Marketed as wonderful green space for Nashville’s metropolitan area and similar to a Napa Valley approach to San Francisco, Nashville’s Trace takes you from Nashville’s Downtown Visitor Center and features such important attractions as the Parthenon, Belle Meade Plantation, Cheekwood, Loveless Café, Bonnie Blue Farm, Meriwether Lewis Memorial, four wineries – Grinder’s Switch, Amber Falls, Keg Springs and Winery at Belle Meade Plantation, Amish country in Lawrence County, Civil War sites such as Carnton Plantation Carter House and Lotz Hosue, Puckett’s Grocery in Leiper’s Fork and countless other hidden gems off the Natchez Trace Parkway. It also includes interesting Music City connections such as Mt. Pleasant Grille where Opry stars used to take the train from Nashville and perform at the Grille’s second floor entertainment room, Centerville, home of Sarah Cannon, whose character Minnie Pearl made “Grinder’s Switch” famous, and Lawrenceburg, “Birthplace of Southern Gospel Music” and home to Tennessee’s first radio station.
The Sunny Side Trail, which begins in the Smoky Mountains and courses through the Cherokee National Forest and into Northeast Tennessee, will be launched May 13 and 14.
This launch will begin at 10:30 a.m. on May 13 at the Robert Tino Gallery in Sevierville, where in addition to the fine art, the historic home features the works of Lewis Buckner, an African-American master carpenter whose works are featured on the trail. A second event will take place at 10 a.m. on May 14 in Greeneville at the Historic General Morgan Inn, whose story is also featured on the trail. Two other events will occur as part of this trail celebration, one with the welcome center opening in Unicoi County and the final event in Bristol, the birthplace of country music and where The Carter Family who recorded “Keep On The Sunny Side” had their first recordings.
The Sunny Side Trail features America’s first frontier, with historic attractions and stories that were critical to not only Tennessee forming as a state, but U.S. westward expansion in general. Wonderful hidden gems and local dining options will be featured along with key attractions such Dollywood, Gatlinburg’s Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community, Andrew Johnson’s National Historic Site, Gray Fossil Site and Museum, Bristol Motor Speedway, and Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest incorporated city, among many, many others.
Both trails will unveil new signage provided by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and both trails feature two of Tennessee’s five national byways – Natchez Trace Parkway featured on Nashville’s Trace, and East Tennessee Crossing featured on Sunny Side Trail.
State Parks Releases New State Recreation Plan
Governor Phil Bredesen and Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke joined local conservation and parks professionals in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the State Capitol to unveil Tennessee 2020, the state’s new recreation plan. The comprehensive planning document was created with significant public input, and focuses on the future of Tennessee’s parks, people and landscapes. The plan documents the most critical needs facing land conservation and recreational infrastructure over the next 10 years.
“Protecting Tennessee’s priority lands and assuring citizens have the opportunity to enjoy our recreational resources contributes both to our quality of life and to sustainable economic development in our rural communities,” said Bredesen. “I’m pleased to see such a comprehensive roadmap for moving forward with recreation and conservation initiatives that have on-the-ground benefits for Tennessee communities.”
Commissioner Jim Fyke
The Department of Environment and Conservation developed the plan with public input from a variety of sources, including surveys, public meetings and working groups. It outlines Tennessee recreation goals, including improving public information about recreational opportunities, improving citizens’ health and bolstering Tennessee’s economic climate through sustainable practices.
“This plan will serve as a catalyst for the state to work with communities and other stakeholders to maintain the resources we have, prioritize specific needs for the future and take action to meet those needs,” said Fyke.
Tennessee 2020 has been approved by the National Park Service. Maintaining an up-to-date state recreation plan allows Tennessee to continue receiving Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars from the federal government, which are used for parks and conservation projects across the state.
Tennessee 2020 advances the 2003-2008 Tennessee State Recreation Plan. Both plans are available on the department’s Web site.
Apply for Marketing College Scholarships
For Tennessee tourism professionals interested in pursuing educational opportunities, scholarship applications are now available. The deadline for application submission is April 21, 2010. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, together with “Official” Tennessee Vacation Guide publisher Miles Media, will again be offering two full scholarships to the Southeast Tourism Society (STS) Marketing College to tourism marketing professionals in the state of Tennessee.
The STS Marketing College is a three-year educational program for members of the tourism industry in the Southeast United States. From July 25 - 30, 2010, the courses will be held at the campus of North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, GA. During this week, students will experience a broad-based curriculum of courses designed to teach marketing techniques from all facets of the tourism industry. Marketing College professors are working, experienced professionals from across the U.S. who not only bring expertise, but real-world knowledge and experience to the classroom.
“We encourage everyone involved in Tennessee tourism to participate in the STS educational programs available. This is a great chance for some of our industry partners to take part in this wonderful program and become even better at the business of tourism,” states Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “The tourism industry is very competitive and continuing education is important for destinations to compete in the global market.”
“STS is delighted to be working in partnership with Miles Media and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. We commend both of these partners for their encouragement and commitment to the continuing education of employees in the travel and tourism industry.” acknowledged Bill Hardman, STS President and CEO.
The STS Marketing scholarships will be awarded to two Tennessee tourism professionals and cover tuition, accommodations and most meals for the 2010 session. The scholarships will be granted based on criteria established by the Tennessee Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (TACVB) in cooperation with Miles Media and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development which will encompass professional aptitude and future career goals in the tourism industry. For the STS application, please contact Mary.Steadman@MilesMedia.com or Abbie.Gristy@MilesMedia.com. For more information on STS Marketing College visit www.southeasttourism.org. Click here for scholarship information.
State Library on the Hunt for Civil War Memorabilia
As part of an effort to promote public interest in the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in Tennessee, the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) is offering citizens around the state the chance to contribute to a permanent record of Civil War resources.
The new initiative, called “Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee,” will provide Tennesseans the opportunity to have their Civil War manuscripts, artifacts and photographs digitally copied and preserved for posterity without leaving their own communities. Materials collected across the state will be used to create the virtual exhibit commemorating the war in Tennessee. The first two sites have been identified as Columbia, TN on April 21 and Blount County Library in Maryville on May 7.
TSLA staff, with the cooperation of local archivists and librarians, will digitize and provide guidance on basic conservation techniques at the locations they visit. The project provides citizens an opportunity to contribute personally to the statewide celebration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial and to honor their Civil War ancestors.
In return, participants will receive free digitization services, copies of the digital images and the opportunity to have their Civil War manuscripts and artifacts preserved digitally for future generations.
Additional information on the project, including a schedule of upcoming locations and eligibility guidelines, is available at www.tn.gov/tsla/cwtn or contact Jami Awalt at (615) 243-3470 or email@example.com.
This is an official project of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.
Preservation Trust to Hold Statewide Conference
The Tennessee Preservation Trust will hold its statewide conference in Greeneville on Wednesday through Friday, April 14-16. Held at the General Morgan Inn, the event will attract heritage preservation supporters from across the state for educational sessions, tours and networking opportunities.
At a different location each year, this year's conference will be hosted by the Tennessee Preservation Trust in conjunction with the Tennessee Main Street program, with major funding from the Tennessee Historical Commission and special support and funding from the Town of Greeneville, the Main Street: Greeneville program, and other sponsors and vendors.
Jann Mirkov, executive director of Main Street: Greeneville, said, "We are honored that Greeneville was selected this year to host the statewide conference. It will be a delight to showcase our unique community to those who have an interest in the historic character of our country and wish to preserve it."
For the first time, the statewide conference will be offering a Commission Assisted Mentoring Program (C.A.M.P.), that is required certified training for preservation commissions and those applying for certification with the Tennessee Historical Commission.
Keeble Sculpture Unveiled at Capitol
The Tennessee State Capitol now showcases a new sculpture. A bust honoring Sampson W. Keeble, the first African American elected to the Tennessee General Assembly, has been placed outside the House of Representatives Chamber. The statesman was a member of the 38th General Assembly and served from 1873-1875 representing Davidson County.
In a ceremony held March 29 in the Supreme Court Chamber, historical scholars presented the history of Mr. Keeble and later the bust was unveiled. Elected officials, historians, friends and family were on hand for the ceremony.
Roy Butler produced the 1.5 x life-size bronze and Tennessee pink marble sculpture. It is 61” high x 36”wide, which includes the marble base that weighs 1,300 pounds. The stone base, fabricated from a solid block of Tennessee pink marble, is inscribed with the names of 14 African American legislators elected in the 19th century.
While in the legislature, Keeble served on the House Military Affairs and Immigration committees. Before his term ended in 1875, he introduced three bills.
Located at 600 Charlotte Avenue in downtown Nashville, the Tennessee State Capitol is an outstanding example of Greek Revival architecture. Built in the mid 1800's by noted architect William Strickland, the building is a must-see for history buffs. Several areas, including library and government chambers, have been restored to their 19th century appearance.
On weekdays, guided tours are available, generally on the hour, except at noon. For group reservations, please call (615) 741-2692.
Students Learn About Career Choices
The Johnson City Chamber of Commerce recently held its 8th Grade TN Scholars Career Fair at Northeast State Community College in Blountville. Students from area schools had a chance to listen to professionals about various careers, including tourism.
Organizers proudly stated the event was a great success and praised the participants. Elisa Britt, Executive Secretary of the Chamber said, "Your involvement introduced students to a variety of careers and information through the exhibits and presentations.She went on to say, We hope this experience, knowledge the students gained, along with the Tennessee Scholars presentation, sparked their interest in a future career or made them aware of options they did not know existed."
Students attending the career fair
Nearly 1000 students participated in the two-day event. “Students were excited about the department’s vacation guide and were impressed with the listings of the attractions from their own areas. “Career fairs like this are very important to 8th graders because it helps them to be more informed about careers as they prepare for high school,” said Dr. Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, assistant commissioner for community and industry relations for the tourism department.
Facts & Trends
TripAdvisor Survey Reveals Growth Spurt In Family Travel
TripAdvisor has announced the results of its annual family travel survey. Ninety-two percent of travelers with children plan to take at least one family vacation this year, up from 88 percent who did so last year. 2010 may also see a trend for traveling further abroad, with 33 percent planning to take both domestic and international family trips, up five percent from last year.
Lost Sea, Sweetwater
The youth of today are better-traveled than ever, according to TripAdvisor’s survey.
75 percent of travelers’ children (those under the age of 18) have visited more than six U.S. states — only 37 percent of these children’s parents had traveled as extensively by the same age.
Travel is very important to a child’s education, according to 52 percent of travelers with children, while 35 percent believe it is somewhat important.
28 percent of travelers with children expect to spend more on family trips in the coming 12 months than they did in the past 12 months, while 47 percent expect to spend roughly the same amount.
The most enjoyable aspect of family vacations is spending quality time together, according to 48 percent of parents.
The five most popular activities that families plan to indulge in together this year are:
1. Relaxing at the beach — 69 percent
2. Visiting a historic site — 62 percent
3. Visiting a museum — 50 percent
4. Visiting a national park — 46 percent
5. Visiting an amusement / theme park — 41 percent
When it comes to avoiding the dreaded cries of, “Are we there yet?,” technology beats more traditional pastimes hands-down.
45 percent of parents turn to a TV or DVD player to entertain their offspring.
Classic travel games hold a place in travelers’ hearts, too. ‘The License Plate Game’ is the top choice for 32 percent, followed by ‘I Spy’, the preferred game for 19 percent, and memory games, favored by 11 percent.
Tnvacation.com Attractions Gets Redesign
To browse the new and improved Attractions section please visit tnvacation.com/attractions.
February 2010 Travel Price Index Released
The February Travel Price Index, the TPI, increased 3.4 percent compared to February 2009. Motor fuel prices jumped 36.0 percent from one year ago. Lodging prices were down 4.8 percent compared to February 2009 and up 3.2 percent from last month. Airfares increased 5.4 percent against twelve months earlier and 0.4 percent from previous month. The Consumer Price Index, or CPI-U, was up 2.1 percent from February 2009.
Developed by the U.S. Travel Association, the Travel Price Index (TPI) measures the seasonally unadjusted inflation rate of the cost of travel away from home in the United States. The TPI is based on U.S. Department of Labor price data collected for the monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI). The TPI is released monthly and is directly comparable to the CPI.
Experience has once again paid off for Jackie Rains. Rains, the manager of the new I-26 Unicoi County Welcome Center, has been with The Department of Tourist Development for almost 27 years. Starting as a Welcome Center Assistant, she was later promoted to manager at the I-40 Cocke County Welcome Center in Hartford. Her dedication and hard work has also led her to be selected as the Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for March 2010.
"Jackie has done a great job starting from scratch at the new I-26 Welcome Center," said Laura Munn, Northeast Tennessee Regional Manager. "It takes a great deal of work to start a new welcome center in a community, and this is the second time that Jackie has been involved with the start up of a new center."
Rains was a Welcome Center Assistant when the Hartford Welcome Center opened, and now as Manager of the Unicoi Center, she has engineered everything required to open a new center, including the hiring of eight new employees. "Knowing we were going to have to hire new employees with no previous welcome center experience, it was a great relief to us when Jackie stepped forward and volunteered to move to Unicoi County and start the new Center, knowing that she had 26 years of welcome center experience," Munn said.
The grand opening at the new I-26 Unicoi County Welcome Center has been set for Friday, May 14.
Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Still Popular
The Great Smoky Mountains defended her designation as the most popular national park in the United States, with more than 9.49 million visitors in 2009. The Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona came in second with approximately 4.348 million visitors. According to the U.S. National Park Authority in Washington, the total number of visitors in the U.S. national level was over 285 million. This was compared with 2008, an increase of 3.9 percent and the fifth-best record in history.
Tennessee Tech Named to National Service Roll
Many of the Tennessee Tech University students commit to service along with their studying and socializing. Because of this commitment , The Corporation for National Community Service has named Tennessee Tech a member of the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service efforts to local communities. This honor is the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement. TTU's University Service Center recorded that almost 2,200 students engaged in community service or academic service learning in the 2008-09 academic year. Those students logged almost 14,000 hours in volunteer work. This is the second year in a row that TTU has received this honor.
Pans for 469-acre Thunder Mountain Attraction
A Bristol businessman plans to establish a new parking, camping and retail center near Bristol Motor Speedway, with plans to eventually add a retail district, a convention hall and hotel and a seasonal race-related theme park. The owner of Cedars Golf Course announced plans to transform the golf course property off Volunteer Parkway into the new Thunder Mountain, a 469-acre venture with nearly 10,000 new race parking spaces and nearly 5,000 full-service camping spaces. The plans are to eventually add a retail district with convention/hotel facilities and a race-related theme park at the site.
Fall Creek Falls State Park
TN Parks Help Rural Communities
A new study has found that Tennessee state parks generated about $1.5 billion in economic activity in fiscal year 2008-2009, much of that in rural parts of the state. The study conducted by the University of Tennessee's Human Dimensions Research Lab at the Institute of Agriculture will be part in an upcoming plan to guide the state's outdoor recreation priorities over the next 10 years. Visitors spent more than $725 million on food, gas, lodging and activities, and financed nearly 12,000 jobs. When all of the economic activity generated by the visits was factored in, the total spending comes to $1.5 billion. The study also found the state's parks make Tennessee more attractive to industries and people looking to relocate.
Beale Street Music Festival
Great Line-Up Booked for Memphis in May Music Festival
Bluegrass artist Alison Krauss and Union Station, pop-soul duo Hall & Oates, guitar hero Jeff Beck, psych-pop showmen The Flaming Lips and Stax legends Booker T. & the MGs are among the big names slated to appear as part of the 2010 Beale Street Music Festival at Tom Lee Park. The 34th annual edition of the concert event is an exciting part of the Memphis in May International Festival. A complete list of performing acts will be available at GoMemphis.com and commercialappeal.com.
Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg to Celebrate 50 Years
The Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg has been serving locals and visitors alike for 50 years. Located on the main drag, this pancake heaven has offered a tasty start for tourists in the resort town before they head out to explore the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. The restaurant touts itself as the oldest pancake house in Tennessee.
Rendezvous Designated Icon
Nation’s Restaurant magazine has designated the Rendezvous Restaurant in Memphis one of 50 All American Icons. Restaurants were selected for their entrepreneurial spirit, concept and impact on the community. The Rendezvous started in 1954 and more than 60 years later they are still serving over 8,000 pounds of ribs a week.
Tennessee STS Grads
Congratulations to nine Tennessee tourism professionals who received their Travel Marketing Professional certification on March 23, 2010. The certification was awarded by Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College during Southeast Tourism Society's Spring Meeting held in Nashville.
Quote of the Month
Continuous effort--not strength or intelligence--is the key to unlocking our potential.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You