a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker

A heartfelt thank you to our partners for all you do to keep this industry alive and well 

Featured Article

The Ever-Expanding Civil War Trails

It has been a year of tremendous growth for the Tennessee Civil War Trails program. As we near the end of 2009, the Department of Tourist Development is very encouraged by participation in the program and the excitement from communities across the state.

The next round of installations is...

Read more

Showcase

Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways

It is an exciting time in Tennessee tourism - Rascal Flatts jumped on board to be the face of Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways, the official Web site went live, and we launched the first of 15 trails with Old Tennessee Trail....

Read more

Sullivan County Connecting Heritage to Tourism

Sullivan County’s Department of Archives and Tourism recently produced their first semi-annual Sullivan County Heritage Tourism Roundtable inside the county’s historic courthouse in Blountville. Sullivan County is anchored by two highly visible communities, Kingsport and Bristol with historic Blountville in the middle. Leadership from all three communities and numerous attractions...

Read more

Sustainable Tourism Continues to Grow

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is pleased to announce that our consumer and industry sustainable tourism Web sites, tnvacation.com/green and tnsustainabletourism.com, now rank in the top 10 Google results when searching for keywords “sustainable travel” and “sustainable tourism.” These search results give Tennessee a tremendous marketing advantage...

Read more

Facts & Trends

Holiday Travel By the Numbers

Paul Eisenburg of GateHouse News Service recently compiled statistics on holiday travel from numerous sources. “It seems even the economy and the worst weather won’t keep people from traveling to see their friends and family around the holidays,” says Eisenburg. Here’s a look at...

Read more

Welcome Center

Employee of the Month

An ancient Roman poet once wrote, "Your profession is not what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you were put on earth to do. With such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling." This poet must have known that...

Read more

Industry Applause

Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.

Eco-Friendly Cabins Ready
Montgomery Bell State Park's eco-friendly cabins have opened. The eight villas at Montgomery Bell State Park are tapping into the earth for heating and cooling to reduce costs and pollution. They're the first...

Read more

Dear Colleagues,

This is such a special time of the year - a time for family, friends, reunions and celebrations. In that same spirit, I believe it’s important for us to look back on this year and celebrate all that has been achieved in this industry and the many innovative ways we have served our visitors to Tennessee.

Economic challenges? Probably one of the toughest years we’ll ever face. Yet it has been a pleasure to watch this industry use its creativity and determination to outdistance standard practices and see our best ideas keep the industry moving forward.  

As I shared during the 2009 Governor’s Conference, the U.S. Travel Association reported a 1.5 percent increase in Tennessee tourism’s direct economic impact, moving us up to $14.4  billion – amazing! Tourists continue to make plans to visit our state because of the excellent job Tennessee’s destinations, attractions and events have done to make sure people know we are affordable, accessible and full of world class entertainment.

:pullquote:This is a perfect time to thank Governor Bredesen and the Tennessee General Assembly for their continued support of our industry. Through the support of both the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as the cooperation we receive from other state agencies, we are able to continue to develop new programs and support our successful marketing campaigns.

This is also a time to thank the staff of our department.  Though small in number compared to other state agencies, we have top-notch professionals who work tirelessly to get the job done.  I benefit greatly from their expertise and knowledge and appreciate all they do to keep this department significant to the industry and state officials.  

A heartfelt thank you to our partners for all you do to keep this industry alive and well and to communicate with Tennessee’s citizenry the essential role tourism plays in our state’s economy. I truly appreciate all of your support for this department with our various projects.  From the Tennessee Sampler in Washington, D.C., to the Sustainable Tourism Workshops, Civil War Trails program, Education initiative, Governor’s Conference and the launching of Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways, we couldn’t ask for better partners. ‘Tis the season to say Thank You, and I do!

Warmest wishes for a wonderful Christmas!


Susan Whitaker
Commissioner

a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Featured Article 

The Ever-Expanding Civil War Trails

It has been a year of tremendous growth for the Tennessee Civil War Trails program. As we near the end of 2009, the Department of Tourist Development is very encouraged by participation in the program and the excitement from communities across the state.

The next round of installations is scheduled to take place during the week of December 14. By the end of this year, there will be nearly 150 historical markers in the ground, stretching from Memphis to Blountville. Williamson County maintains the most markers with 14 in the ground. Hamilton County will not be far behind with 12 historical markers being installed during the next round. With 141 historical markers in the ground by year’s end, the state will have participation of 41 counties.

This program has been made possible by two federal enhancement grants provided by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. By hitting the benchmark of 150 historical markers, we have successfully utilized the funds from the first grant. The second grant allows for another 150 markers giving the state 300 markers total. We hope to accomplish this goal by the start of 2011 as we move into commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and its impact on Tennessee.

For further information, contact Noell Rembert at noell.rembert@tn.gov or 615-532-8077.

Showcase

Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways

It is an exciting time in Tennessee tourism - Rascal Flatts jumped on board to be the face of Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways, the official Web site went live, and we launched the first of 15 trails with Old Tennessee Trail. The momentum for this initiative has been incredible. We would like to thank all of the partners for their continued effort and support by hosting meetings, volunteering, contributing information and spreading the word about the initiative. Thank you! Designsensory stepped up to the plate and delivered a Web site that truly captures the Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways initiative. If you haven't already, we invite you to take a few minutes to explore the site at tntrailsandbyways.com. You will find maps, information on each trail and interactive tools to enhance the trail experience. You will notice that several of the trails are still under development, and we are working diligently to gather information and launch each trail.

Because no one knows Tennessee better than you, we need your help to continue building the trails. Join the Facebook group page for each of the 15 trails, and give us your input by uploading photos, videos, points of interest and events. Also, become a fan of the Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and stay up to date with new photo additions on Flickr. These social outlets provide a positive forum for sharing information and new ideas.

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Jennifer Littlejohn at Jennifer.Littlejohn@tn.gov.

Sullivan County Connecting Heritage to Tourism

Sullivan County’s Department of Archives and Tourism recently produced their first semi-annual Sullivan County Heritage Tourism Roundtable inside the county’s historic courthouse in Blountville. Sullivan County is anchored by two highly visible communities, Kingsport and Bristol with historic Blountville in the middle. Leadership from all three communities and numerous attractions was present.

During her keynote address, Assistant Tourism Commissioner, Dr. Phyllis Qualls-Brooks showcased the value of communities and tourism partners being connected. “Sullivan County is already a leader in connecting their historical assets thru numerous national and regional partnerships,” she said.

Numerous promotional partnerships include:
1. The award winning Tales & Trails of America’s First Frontier driving tour, produced by Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association and showcased in National Geographic Magazine.
2. The ever-expanding TN Civil War Trails program produced by the state tourism office. Blountville was in the first round of trail markers to be installed. To date, there are five markers in Blountville and one in Kingsport. “Future Roundtable events will provide an open platform to share and exchange ideas for promoting heritage tourism through historic sites and organizations in the county,” said Shelia Steele Hunt, Director of the Department of Archives and Tourism. “It's all about connectivity and networking.”

“The message is loud and clear,” Brooks concluded. “The historical stage in Sullivan County is set for you!”

Sustainable Tourism Continues to Grow

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is pleased to announce that our consumer and industry sustainable tourism Web sites, tnvacation.com/green and tnsustainabletourism.com, now rank in the top 10 Google results when searching for keywords “sustainable travel” and “sustainable tourism.” These search results give Tennessee a tremendous marketing advantage for visitors interested in green travel.

Our message grows because the tourism staff and industry partners continue to work hard with this initiative, as evidenced by our recent workshops and webinars. The West Tennessee Sustainable Tourism Workshops held in November in Jackson and Memphis were well received by more than 150 tourism and economic development professionals. Keynote speaker Edward McMahon, senior resident fellow, the Urban Land Institute, provided attendees with a reality check of what can happen to a destination if you do not adopt sustainable tourism practices. Glenn Hasek, publisher and editor, Green Lodging News offered a national view of what can be accomplished through sustainable tourism. Attendees were pleased with the presentation by General Manager Steven Andre of the Hutton Hotel in Nashville who provided a positive message, “Take the first step today to get started, and then commit to a plan for sustainable tourism.”

As usual, West Tennessee rolled out the welcome mat and provided attendees with sustainable memories from the great food at the Old Country Store to the unique beauty and history of the Pink Palace Museum. Thanks to our West Tennessee partners for their assistance in making these workshops a success.

December 1st featured a Geogreen Webinar on GeoTourism featuring Jonathan B. Tourtellot, director, and geotourism editor, National Geographic Traveler, and Cheryl Hargrove, president, the HTC Group.

Stay tuned for the department’s second series of GeoGreen Webinars in 2010. For information about registering for the webinar, please contact Patricia Gray: patricia.gray@tn.gov or (615) 741-9004.

Holiday Travel By the Numbers

Paul Eisenburg of GateHouse News Service recently compiled statistics on holiday travel from numerous sources. “It seems even the economy and the worst weather won’t keep people from traveling to see their friends and family around the holidays,” says Eisenburg. Here’s a look at some holiday travel numbers.

  • 2/3: Holiday traveler numbers could see an increase this year. A September study by the U.S. Travel Association found that nearly two-thirds of Americans planned to take a leisure trip before January.
  • 79 percent: According to a 2008 Harris Poll, 79 percent of people older than 55 believe that being with family and friends over the holidays creates memories. The percentage falls to 58 percent for people ages 35-44. People ages 18-34 are in the middle at 61 percent.
  • 64 percent: A Harris Poll found that 64 percent of parents with young children believe the time and money friends and family spend to travel to visit during the holidays is “part of their gift to me.”
  • 37 percent: Of those who visit out-of-town family or friends at Thanksgiving, only 37 percent feel “obligated” to be with the people they are visiting, according to a Harris Poll. Seventy percent of travelers recognize it as an opportunity to maintain tradition.
  • 214 miles: The average Thanksgiving long-distance trip by automobile is 214 miles, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, compared with 275 miles for those motoring long-distance for Christmas.

Leisure Travel Continues to Outperform Business Travel

Each month, Dr. Suzanne Cook of U.S. Travel Association reviews current industry trends in the online newsletter, U.S. Travel Outlook. In the November issue, Dr. Cooke noted, “Domestic leisure travel, while still languishing, continues to outperform business travel, posting a 2.7 percent decline in volume and a 10.3 percent loss in spending year-to-date through Q3 '09. Shorter, closer-to-home and less costly travel options continue to be the norm, and some destinations are benefitting from this shift.”

For attractions, Cook recalled a recent presentation made by Jerry Henry, Corporate Director of Research for the Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation. “Henry projected a four to six percent decline in overall attraction attendance in 2009 followed by marginally better performance in 2010, but he concluded that real post-recession growth is still likely to be 18 to 24 months away.”

Click here to read all of Dr. Cook’s entire November research review.

Some Rediscover the Benefits of Business Travel

When the economy experienced a sharp downturn in 2008, many companies made quick decisions about travel, one of the first areas often trimmed when money is tight. According to a report from the National Business Travel Association (NBTA), approximately 85 percent of businesses had decreased travel spending. However, after interviewing travel analysts and business leaders, New York Times writer, Tanya Mohn, reported that some businesses are rediscovering the benefits of business travel.

Mohn’s investigation pointed to two recent reports that found a clear link between business travel and corporate profit. The reports were independently commissioned by NBTA and U.S. Travel Association. Henry H. Harteveldt, travel analyst for Forrester Research, commented that, as social beings, “Nothing replaces two business people building a professional relationship in person.”

The New York Times also interviewed Adam Sacks, managing director of Oxford Economics, the firm that prepared the U.S. Travel Association report. Sacks believes that, to some extent, the findings confirmed what business people intuitively knew: curbing travel may save dollars in the short term, but there are significant long-term benefits from investing in business travel. “Not all cuts are smart cuts,” he said.

Welcome Center

Employee of the Month

An ancient Roman poet once wrote, "Your profession is not what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you were put on earth to do. With such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling." This poet must have known that Kerry Gilkey would one day become a employee of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

"I love working outside," said Gilkey. "I know every inch of this Welcome Center property and I really love working here."

Due to this type of enthusiasm, our Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month for November 2009 is Kerry Gilkey of the I-55 Shelby County Welcome Center in Memphis.

Glikey's hard work and efforts have been noticed by his supervisor. "Kerry is a very good worker and works well with all employees," said Betty Settles, I-55 Welcome Center Manager. Settles went on to say that Kerry is very good at keeping up with supplies, lawn equipment, and working with the Welcome Center Assistants with the large inventory of brochures at the Center.

Gilkey, has been employed with the TDTD for 12 years.

Industry Applause

Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.

Eco-Friendly Cabins Ready
Montgomery Bell State Park's eco-friendly cabins have opened. The eight villas at Montgomery Bell State Park are tapping into the earth for heating and cooling to reduce costs and pollution. They're the first in a series of more energy efficient and eco-friendly cabins at Tennessee State Parks.

Santa Joins the Duggar Family for Kickoff of Pigeon Forge Winterfest

The kickoff event for the 20th anniversary of Pigeon Forge Winterfest featured special guests the Duggar family from TLC’s “18 Kids and Counting” TV show. The 2009-2010 Pigeon Forge Winterfest is a Top 100 Event in North America, according to travel professionals assembled by the American Bus Association.

Elephant Sanctuary Gets Recognitions

The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald has received world-wide recognition during its 15 years of existence. In October the State of Tennessee, Lewis County and the City of Hohenwald have each designated October 2009 as Elephant Awareness Month. A proclamation signed by Gov. Phil Bredesen states, “The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee continually sets and reaches goals to better the lives of all elephants worldwide.”

Sevier County Top Retirement Spot
Retirement Lifestyles Magazine has selected Sevier County as one of the top 11 Southern retirement hotspots. The publication cites the county's stable to strong economy, wide variety of activities, moderate cost of living and the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. Editors said Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are great choices for relocating retirees from other states.

IAAPA 2009 Big E Awards Recognize Top-Notch Live Entertainment
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) announced the winners of its Big E Awards at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009. In its eleventh year, the awards honor the best in live entertainment at amusement parks and attractions throughout the world.
Best Live Edutainment Show Winner: “Creature Adventures Starring The Kratt Brothers,”
Dollywood; Pigeon Forge.Heartbeat Award Winner: “Sha-Kon-O-Hey!;” Dollywood, Pigeon Forge.
Best Male Performer Winner: Gabriel Myers, Dollywood, Pigeon Forge.

Dollywood’s Splash Country Honored as Top Waterpark Attraction of 2009
Splash Country won the title of 2009 Must-See Waterparks during IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009. The award recognizes outstanding waterparks throughout the world which provide visitors with unique and memorable experiences, top-notch guest service, operations, and safety. Dollywood’s Splash Country won first place.

Baileyton RV Park earns “A”
Thirty-one campgrounds and recreational vehicle resorts have earned all-around "A" grades in the second annual consumer satisfaction survey of independent parks. But only one -- Baileyton RV Park is in TN. Almost 17,000 camping and RV devotees participated in the online survey, which evaluated guest experiences at 1,840 independent campgrounds and RV resorts affiliated with the National Assn. of RV Parks and Campgrounds. The survey was for privately run locations only, national and state parks were not included.

Rock City Enchanted Garden of Lights, Chattanooga

ABA Names Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights 100 Best Events For 2010
The American Bus Association announced that Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights has been designated as one of the Top 100 Events in North America for 2010 by a tourism industry selection committee. Inclusion in the Top 100 list indicates that The Enchanted Garden of Lights offers excellent entertainment value to both tour groups and individual travelers from around the world, said ABA.

Starry Nights Makes Return
Shelby Farms Park Conservancy proudly reintroduces Starry Nights 2009, the Mid-South’s favorite holiday light show. Starry Nights 2009 will feature more than a million environmentally friendly LED lights illuminating dozens of all-new displays along with some of your old favorites. Starry Nights is a holiday light show like no other. Bring your family and drive the mile and half long, winding road through serene Shelby Farms Park to see the dazzling displays come to life. You can visit the Starry Nights Village at the end of the show to purchase the Starry Nights 2009 holiday CD, official merchandise, hot cocoa and more!

Enchanted Forest Festival of Trees Opens
Enchanted forest intrigues children and adults alike and brings magic to the holiday season. Teddy bears beckon, elves are busy at work, penguins play in the snow, while Santa waits to hear holiday wishes. This fairy tale-like forest of glittering lights will dazzle the young and young-at-heart. The best holiday gift is that all proceeds benefit LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center.

Festival of Trees: Avenues of beautiful trees decorated by professional designers, individuals and local organizations glisten throughout the Pink Palace.
Gingerbread Village
: A snow-covered village of scrumptious creations awaits you! From cozy cottages to majestic mansions, all are designed by local chefs, businesses, individuals and groups. An exciting miniature train travels around the Gingerbread Village.
Penguin Pond: These cuddly, stuffed penguins are sponsored by individuals, businesses and classrooms of kids. After enjoying the pond at the Pink Palace, the penguins are given to patients at Le Bonheur.
Holidays Around the World: A fun and educational way to learn how other countries and various cultures celebrate different holidays.

Old Country Store, Jackson

Rock Legend Eats at Tennessee Legend
The Old Country Store Restaurant and Casey Jones Village got a great day after Thanksgiving surprise as rock legend Robert Plant stopped in for lunch. Clark Shaw was so appreciative that he quickly sent an e-mail thank you that Plant then posted on his official Robert Plant website. “Thanks for joining us for lunch the day after Thanksgiving. We hope you enjoyed our traditional southern cookin’ and that you will return again next time you’re in the area,” said Shaw.

Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You