Dear Friends in Tourism,
Winter is over, hurray! Somehow the blossoms on the trees and flowers seem even more vividly beautiful this year than ever before. Maybe it’s because I am so ready for spring - and it appears I am not alone. Spring travel has begun in full force, Vacation Guide inquiries are up and Tennessee is ready to welcome travelers looking for the perfect spring getaway.
With gas prices creeping up, there has been a lot of conversation in the news and on Capitol Hill about how it could affect tourism. Research tells us that Tennessee has the good fortune to be known as an affordable vacation spot and now is the time to remind people of that fact. Not only are we easily accessible to so much of the United States population, our road system is one of the best in the country, leading people to some of the best destinations in the world. We weathered the most recent gas hike storm through positive messaging and some very clever promotions and incentives. Pigeon Forge has launched an exciting “Family Challenge” promotion you can read more about in this issue. Of course our No.1 asset is you, the tourism industry, working hard each day to provide tourists with world-class Tennessee experiences.
In his inaugural State of the State address, Governor Bill Haslam challenged all of us to join him in transforming how government sets priorities and makes choices. I truly appreciate Governor Haslam’s support of the tourism industry and this department. He has expressed his understanding of tourism’s positive contribution to the state’s economy, providing jobs and generating tax revenue, and his budget proposal for 2011-2012 recommends no reductions for tourism. Our commitment is to use those dollars in the most efficient and effective ways possible as we review what has worked well and what new marketing opportunities make sense for the future.
As many of you know, each of Tennessee’s 14 Welcome Centers serve as a gateway and information hub for more than 15 million visitors annually. I am pleased to announce the official Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting for our newest Welcome Center on I-65 in Ardmore. The event will take place at 1 p.m. on April 11. Since its “soft” opening, 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 John Schroer and the Tennessee Department of Transportation for the funding and construction of the new center. It’s one more place for us to make a great first impression for our visitors.
It’s April, so it must be Tennessee Sampler time! This year, more than 50 tourism partners from across the state are participating in the Tennessee Sampler Express from April 5-7. Eight sales teams and three PR teams will conduct calls to AAA offices, tour operators and media representatives. They will visit 30 different markets in twelve states and are scheduled to hold more than 125 meetings, generating quite a bit of new business for Tennessee tourism.
Tennessee continues to celebrate the installation of Civil War Trail markers as part of a multi-year program that marks both larger battles and lesser-known Civil War sites throughout the state. Livingston will host the next marker dedication ceremony on April 12. These markers capture important stories of Tennessee’s cities, towns and rural communities at war. When you see one of our Civil War Trail markers, let me encourage you to take the time to read the story and learn another piece of Tennessee’s fascinating Civil War history. More than 50 additional markers are expected to be installed in Tennessee by the end of June.
Congratulations are in order for Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg who were named by TripAdvisor as the No. 4 and No. 6 “Traveler’s Choice Family Award-winning Great U.S. Destinations to Discover.” According to TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, Travelers' Choice winners are based on millions of real and unbiased reviews and opinions from travelers around the world. Having two of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountain towns in the Top 10 is quite impressive but completely understandable. Do I sound biased? Just informed!
I was honored to participate in Nashville’s Cherry Blossom Festival Japan Relief Event on March 26. This festival, founded by the Japan-America Society of Tennessee and now in its third year, was established to foster goodwill between the people of the state of Tennessee and Japan. The Japanese Consulate moved to Nashville from New Orleans several years ago and its Consul-General, Hiroshi Sato, has been a very positive force for encouraging travel between Japan and Tennessee. More than $114,000 has been collected to date to help our friends in Japan during this very difficult time for their nation.
In light of the tremendous devastation in Japan, and the great need for aid, let me make you aware of the ongoing Japan Relief opportunity through the Japan-America Society of Tennessee. Tax-deductible donations are being accepted via PayPal at www.jastn.com or by check. Checks should be made payable to the Japan-America Society of Tennessee with “Tennessee Tomodachi Fund” in the memo portion and mailed to the Japan-America Society of Tennessee, P.O. Box 190476, Nashville, Tenn. 37219. For more information, please visit jastn.com or nashvillecherryblossomfestival.org.
Tennessee in the springtime - I hope you get a chance to get out, take a road trip and enjoy this beautiful state. We are blessed to be able to call it home.
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
The Jack Trail is Launched with Three Special Celebrations
Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker officially launched The Jack Trail on March 22.
The special launch event was held at select trail sites, including Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Oaklands Historic House Museum in Murfreesboro and Martin’s BBQ Joint in Nolensville.
Participating dignitaries in the unveiling of the new trail included Commissioner Whitaker, Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer, Kix Brooks, Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess, Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson, Franklin Mayor Jimmy Alexander and Lynchburg Mayor Sloan Stewart.
The sixth of 16 self-guided driving tours in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program, The Jack Trail features 328 tourism sites spanning across nearly 350 miles in the mid-state, highlighting parts of Nashville, Davidson County, Murfreesboro, Bell Buckle, Wartrace and several other counties brimming with history, music, horses and whiskey making.
The trail officially begins at the Downtown Nashville Visitors Center where guests can pick up brochures, maps and coupons before heading out to discover Tennessee’s back roads. However, guests can choose to begin their journey at any site along the path.
The Jack Trail is the perfect blend of what makes Tennessee fascinating, showcasing our state’s unique heritage including hundreds of miles full of historic sites, preserved homes and museums that bring the region to life. This trail will draw visitors to Tennessee from across the region and across the country, distinguishing our state as a must-see and ideal place to play and work.
Sampler Express is on the Road!
Back by popular demand is the “Express” version of the Tennessee Sampler. Suitcases are packed, motors are running, and the sales and PR teams are ready to hit the road. This grassroots and economical approach will take teams on the road along several different routes, conducting more than 125 sales and PR calls to AAA offices, tour operators and various media outlets.
Once again this year, we will divide and conquer a number of feeder markets, doing a comprehensive sales and PR blitz in markets surrounding our state. Last year this approach was extremely effective, resulting in seven sales teams conducting 130 sales calls to AAA offices and tour operators in 47 different cities. Three PR teams held 37 meetings in 10 cities.
TDTD has packed the binders featuring the profile sheets of participating sales partners. The jump drives for the separate PR meetings are hot off the press and ready to roll. The Tennessee goodies are in the bag. The only thing left to say is, It's SAMPLER SHOWTIME!
Ardmore Welcome Center Grand Opening on April 11
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker will be joined by Commissioner John Schroer of the Department of Transportation for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the I-65 Giles County Welcome Center on Monday, April 11. Commissioners Whitaker and Schroer, along with several state and local dignitaries, will perform the official ribbon cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. CDT.
"We are very excited to open the new I-65 Giles County Welcome Center at Ardmore,” said Barry Young, director of Welcome Centers.“Ibelieve our visitors entering Tennessee via I-65 North will be very pleased with what they experience at the new center.Parking is more accessible to the main building, the restrooms are much larger andthere is a family restroom available.And, as always, our friendly staff is there ready to assist visitors with information about Tennessee."
This day-long event will provide entertainment, refreshments and exhibits from tourism partners from around the state. Partners from Bedford, Cannon, Coffee, Davidson, Franklin, Giles, Hickman, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Perry, Rutherford, Sevier, Wayne and Williamson counties have been invited to attend.
Visitors will have the opportunity to meet with exhibitors from The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Dixie Stampede, The Commodore Hotel & Café and many more.
Designed as a log cabin and featuring 4,989 square feet, the facility combines the warmth of Tennessee with the modern advantage of new construction, including sustainable features such as geothermal heating and cooling and a solar array.
There are 14 Welcome Centers located primarily on interstate highway entrances to Tennessee. Tennessee’s Welcome Centers are constructed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and are operated by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Events Announced
In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, Tennessee’s Sesquicentennial Commission announces the dates for the 2011 and the 2012 Sesquicentennial Signature Events.
Taking place Sept. 6-7, 2011, the theme of this historic event is “The First Shots of Tennessee’s Civil War” and will be held in Cookeville at Tennessee Tech University.
The 2012 Signature Event’s theme will be “Invasions by Rail and River” on April 4-5, 2012 at Pickwick Landing State Park and Shiloh National Military Park. The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, appointed by the Governor, leads a state effort to promote, fund and preserve the complete story of Tennessee’s Civil War and its legacy.
The Tennessee Sesquicentennial Signature Events will consist of historical discussions, living history, Civil War-era musical performances, and recognition of Tennessee’s Civil War Trail communities and the important role they play in sustaining the state’s Civil War history.
“We know the Civil War Sesquicentennial will focus the world’s attention on this pivotal time in our nation’s history. We expect thousands of visitors to make their way to Tennessee to learn about the state’s role in the war,” said Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.
"Tennessee is creating a national model for how to plan and to commemorate the Civil War Sesquicentennial by sharing how the war impacted families, farms and towns across the state as well as leaving tens of thousands brave soldiers dead on its 38 designated nationally significant battlefields," said 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.
The sesquicentennial commemoration of the American Civil War is important to all Tennesseans. The two-day Inaugural event held in Nashville in November 2010, attended by more than 9,000 people, began a five-year recognition from 2011-2015, to create conversation, stir interest, and help people develop a greater appreciation for history and acknowledge the role this war played in the lives of all Americans.
Tennessee is the only entire state designated by the U.S. Congress as a Civil War National Heritage area. Registration for the 2011 Tennessee’s Sesquicentennial Signature Event is free and open to the public. To register please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at tncivilwar150.com.
Facts & Trends
Expectations for Future Travel on the Rise
Nearly one third (31.6 percent) of America’s domestic leisure travelers say they plan to increase the number of leisure trips they will take in 2011. (Up from 27.6 percent last July) However, the percent of those expecting to cut back on their travel dropped from 18.9 percent last July to only 15 percent.
Improvements were also noted in expectations for spending on leisure travel. In this past January’s survey of those who had traveled in the past 12 months for purely leisure or personal reasons, 33.1 percent indicate they plan to increase their travel spending in the coming year, up from 25.6 percent last July.
The figures are from the State of the American Traveler Survey, conducted every six months by Destination Analysts, Inc.
Family Time in the Summertime
With summertime approaching, the peak in family vacations is just a couple of months ahead.
Family travel is any form of leisure travel where children are included. Some characteristics of the family traveler uncovered from Ypartnership/Harrison Group Portrait of American Travelers are:
Clearly 44 percent of all leisure travelers took at least one family vacation in 2009. The growing trend of multi-generational travel is a contributing factor to these numbers.
Today’s family travelers:
Equally likely to take both weekend trips (73 percent) of four nights or less including a Saturday, and extended trips (71 percent) of five consecutive nights or more;
Beach/lake destinations are king, selected by fully one third (33 percent) of all family travelers in 2009; one out of four (26 percent) took a theme park vacation;
Seven out of ten (69 percent) took a vacation to celebrate a life event last year (a "Celebration Vacation"). Milestone birthdays and anniversaries topped the list;
One out of five (20 percent) is a grandparent, and two-thirds (67 percent) of those who have reached this life stage took at least one vacation with their grandchildren last year;
In 2009, family travelers were more likely to have taken a vacation in their local area (less than 50 miles from home) as an alternative to vacationing in a destination that would have required traveling a greater distance ;
Three out of ten (31 percent) took a "last minute" trip in 2009, departing an average of just six days after deciding to take the trip;
Fully one out of four (24 percent) has stayed in a vacation home or condominium rental as an alternative to conventional hotel/resort lodging on a vacation last year;
Children play an active role in planning vacations in half (48 percent) of all family travel households
"Excellent, helpful, friendly service from Janna. She was exceptional!" This is how a visitor from Canada described Janna Jones, our Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for March 2011.
Jones, a Welcome Center Assistant at the I-65 Robertson County (Mitchellville) Welcome Center, began her employment with the Department of Tourist Development on May 1, 2008. This is the second time she has been selected.
“I’m very happy,” said Janna, “I love my job and don’t want people to leave until I’ve completely taken care of them. I want them to have the best experience they can get.”
Tourists are very complimentary of Janna because she goes out of her way to help them. "I have guests tell me how great Janna is all the time," said Sherry Stratton, Welcome Center Manager.
Pigeon Forge Gets Creative in Special $10,000 Family Challenge
Pigeon Forge, Tenn. is seeking five families who are game for some offbeat and lighthearted competitions in this Great Smoky Mountains resort town.
The five families will become Pigeon Forge’s first reality show stars, and the winning family will take home $10,000 from the Pigeon Forge Family Challenge.
“Choosing the families will be a big part of the fun, because the first challenge is for families to nominate themselves with 60-second videos that we’ll post at MyPigeonForge.com. Winners will be chosen by public vote on the website,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism.
Families can submit videos – and lobby for people to vote for them – through May 17. The five winning families will be invited to Pigeon Forge for the real competitions in mid-June.
“The challenges will be spread throughout Pigeon Forge at locations such as Dollywood, the Titanic Museum Attraction and the many action-packed attractions along the Pigeon Forge Parkway. Go-carts will be in the mix somewhere,” Downey said.
The in-town competitions will be videotaped, and the resulting features will air as a series of webisodes at MyPigeonForge.com in July.
Families not inclined to enter the Pigeon Forge Family Challenge still can win Pigeon Forge vacations by registering at MyPigeonForge.com. Three vacations will be given away during the promotion, each for up to five people and including Dollywood tickets and admission to other attractions.
Pigeon Forge, which recently landed at No. 4 on TripAdvisor’s inaugural Top 10 Best Family Destinations list, is a 12-month destination and a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited of all national parks.
Details about the Pigeon Forge Family Challenge and all aspects of visiting Pigeon Forge are available online at MyPigeonForge.com or by calling toll-free to 1-800-251-9100.
Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.
Tennessee's Hwy. 321 now the 'Great Smoky Mountains Byway'
Highway 321 will be the new Route 66: a historic, scenic road that will draw visitors from all across the country. This past fall, Highway 321 was designated the "Great Smoky Mountains Byway." Organizers say they hope with this new name will come new travelers. The newly named byway stretches 200 miles through seven counties from Loudon to Carter County.
Officials Unveil New Design
Mayor Karl Dean was joined by officials from Omni Hotels & Resorts and the Country Music Hall of Fame® & Museum in unveiling the design for the integrated 21-story Omni Nashville Hotel and 200,000-square-foot Museum expansion. Located on Fifth Avenue South between Demonbreun and Korean Veterans Boulevard, the development will serve as the headquarter hotel for Music City Center, Nashville's new downtown convention center currently under construction and set to open in 2013. The 800-room hotel will connect to an expansion of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on four levels, sharing meeting and entertainment space and bringing additional restaurants and retail venues to the area. Like the Music City Center, the hotel and expansion project is expected to achieve LEED Silver certification.
Doubletree is First Local Commercial EV Charging Station
The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chattanooga Downtown is the first commercial installation of a publicly available electric vehicle charging station. ECOtality is project manager of the EV project and will oversee the installation of commercial and residential charging stations in 18 cities and major metropolitan areas in six states and the District of Columbia. The project will provide an EV infrastructure to support the deployment of 8,300 EVs.
Great Smoky Mountains
Smoky Mountains Cited for Family Travel
TripAdvisor has selected Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in the Smoky Mountain region as among the best U.S. family destinations to discover. Pigeon Forge was listed No. 4 and Gatlinburg No. 6. Winners were based on recommendations from reviewers who traveled with family.
The Women’s Foundation of Greater Memphis Named 2011 Legends Awards
Barbara R. Hyde, Onie Johns, Deanie Parker, Marguerite Piazza and the late Annie Laurie Ervin Willis will be honored April 19 at an event at The Peabody Hotel Memphis. Deanie Parker, past president and CEO of Soulsville Foundation, was instrumental in building Memphis in May and was a long-time leader at The Regional Medical Center at Memphis.
Blues Foundation Receives 2011 Arts Award
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam will present The Blues Foundation of Memphis with the Governor’s Arts Award, Tennessee’s highest honor in the arts. The award will be presented in a special ceremony produced by the Tennessee Arts Commission.
Tennessee Offers Civil War 150th Anniversary License Plate
The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission is pleased to announce the official Tennessee Civil War 150th Anniversary License Plate. Sponsored by the nonprofit partnering organization, Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association, proceeds from the plate will help preserve Tennessee Civil War battlefields.
Old Country Store Wins Statewide Video Contest
Brooks Shaw & Son Old Country Store of Jackson won the second annual statewide entrepreneurship video competition. The contest "What Makes You an Entrepreneur?" was sponsored by the Department of Economic and Community Development. The store will receive a $500 cash prize and a professional marketing package valued at $2,000.
Collierville to Host 2011 Tennessee Preservation Trust Conference
Since 2000, the Tennessee Preservation Trust’s Statewide Preservation Conference has brought together heritage supporters from across the state for educational sessions, tours and networking opportunities. The annual conference travels around the state and showcases the historic character of a different community each year. This year’s conference will take place in Collierville, April 14 and 15.
Nashville Travels to London Taxis
Nashville plans to be a part of the upcoming wedding celebrations of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau has bought advertisements in London taxi cabs to promote Music City around the time of the April royal wedding. Ten London taxi cabs will be “wrapped” with advertisements promoting Music City. Another 150 taxi cabs will have Music City ads on a panel in the back seat.
Tennessee State Museum Hosts Egyptian Exhibit
The Tennessee State Museum will host an exhibit examining the art, history and culture of ancient Egypt. The exhibit will last until Sept. 4, and looks at the Egyptian influence on Tennessee. "Egyptian Relics, Replicas, & Revivals: Treasures From Tutankhamun" features artifacts from the Institute of Egyptian Art & Archaeology from the University of Memphis. Also included are items from the International Museum Institute of New York, the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University.
Pigeon Forge is 50
In April, Pigeon Forge marked its 50th year as an incorporated city. To mark the occasion, a variety of Pigeon Forge residents will participate in panel discussions called “Golden Memory Hours.” The reminiscing will carry the town’s history from the days of cattle and hayfields along the Parkway to today’s bustling tourism mecca that attracts more than 10 million visitors a year.
2011 YW Tribute to Women Award Recipient...Lorrie Cooper
Lorrie Cooper, chair of the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau, has been selected as a recipient of the 2011 YW Tribute to Women Award. The YWCA recognizes 12 women from the Tri-Cities area for their outstanding achievements. A special panel of out-of-state judges considered nominees from fields of art, education, business and community service.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You