This letter is full of reasons to celebrate! Summer travel is in full swing in Tennessee, and I am delighted to report that the strong growth trend we’ve been tracking since the beginning of the year has continued in all three grand regions.
As examples of this tremendous success, the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau recently reported attractions such as Beale Street, Graceland and the Memphis Zoo have seen attendance jump more than 26 percent this year.
Nashville’s CMA Festival saw record attendance, with all 50 states represented and travelers from 31 countries celebrating in Music City. Just down the road in Manchester, Bonnaroo was a sell-out with 80,000 fans attending.
Crowds totaling 625,000 enjoyed Chattanooga’s Riverbend Festival, and reports from the Great Smoky Mountains region indicate year-to-date visitation was up double digits with record crowds continuing to arrive.
All of this is great news for the tourism industry and local communities as millions of dollars in direct tourist expenditures and needed sales tax revenue are generated.
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is celebrating a major milestone with the launch of the final two Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways trails. On June 15, the Top Secret Trail was launched during the opening ceremonies of the Secret City Festival in Oak Ridge. The Cotton Junction Trail, the 16th and final trail, launched in Jackson on June 26th from the front porch of the newly restored historic Providence House at Casey Jones Village.
My personal thanks to Commissioner John Schroer for participating in both these and several earlier launch ceremonies. The partnership and commitment of the Department of Transportation continues to be a crucial part of the success of the development and implementation of this groundbreaking Trail initiative.
These 16 trails now cover 5,078 miles throughout all 95 counties of Tennessee, featuring thousands of points of interests both on and off the beaten path. I am grateful for the tremendous teamwork and can-do spirit that has resulted in the completion of the trail launches. We are looking forward to working with the local communities to grow and sustain the Trails over the coming years.
The day after the Cotton Junction launch, the Tennessee Tourism Committee appointed by Governor Bill Haslam held an open forum in Jackson. A large number of tourism partners participated in this important meeting and exchange of ideas on how to improve state tourism efforts in Tennessee. The Committee met following the forum to move forward on formulating recommendations to the Governor. A new website designed to inform the industry on the exciting progress and work of the Committee will soon be up and running.
If you haven’t made your plans yet, let me encourage you to consider two important conferences coming-up in August. SYTA (Student & Youth Travel Association) will be held in Nashville August 24-28. This is an opportunity to bring your tourism message to student and youth travel buyers from across the country. For more information, visit syta.org.
ESTO, U.S. Travel’s Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations, will take place August 26-28 in Boston. ESTO is the premier educational event for our industry, especially for destination marketers. It is a conference worth its weight in shared best practices, latest trends, business tools and techniques. In this highly competitive environment, continuing education makes good business sense. For details visit ustravel.org/events/esto
The Governor’s Conference on Tourism will take place September 19-21 in Sevierville. This annual event is a must-attend for tourism professionals. Read more about it in the accompanying feature article. Early bird discount registration deadline is July 31. For details go to tenntourismroundtable.com.
As I mentioned at the top of this letter, we have had much to celebrate with our tourism industry successes this year. But I’m sure you’ll agree that an even bigger reason to celebrate is the blessing of living in the greatest country in the world. Have a wonderful 4th of July.
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Cotton Junction, Final Trail Launched in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways Program
The Tennessee Departments of Tourist Development and Transportation, in partnership with tourism organizations in nine counties in West Tennessee, launched the Cotton Junction Trail - Teapots to Sweet Spots. The trail is the 16th and final self-guided driving trail to launch in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program. Cotton Junction features sites and attractions in Carroll, Crocket, Fayette, Gibson, Haywood, Madison, Shelby, Tipton and Weakley counties showcasing 320 miles of West Tennessee’s history, culture, music and cuisine. The Cotton Junction Trail originates in Memphis and heads east connecting the region’s farmland and natural beauty with classic small towns.
Steve Bowers, JEA TV/Media Manager, hosted the event. Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and Commissioner John Schroer, Tennessee Department of Transportation made special remarks. The event was held at the Providence House, a historic West Tennessee Antebellum home relocated to the Casey Jones Village and recently restored to its grandeur.
“The Cotton Junction Trail is designed to give our visitors an authentic Tennessee experience,” said Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Department of Tourist Development, “This trail takes travelers throughout West Tennessee’s historic cities and towns but also encourages them to stay longer and to visit the hidden gems along our beautiful back roads.”
The Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program showcases 16 regional trails throughout the state highlighting tourism attractions in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Trails include Old Tennessee Trail, Sunny Side Trail, Nashville’s Trace, Pie in the Sky Trail, Promised Land Trail, Great River Road Trail, Ring of Fire Trail, Rocky Top Trail, Screaming Eagle Trail, Tanasi Trail, The Jack Trail, Tennessee River Trail, Top Secret Trail, Walking Tall Trail, White Lightning Trail and Cotton Junction. More than 5,000 miles are covered through the trails program, with each trail having anywhere from 76 to 328 points of interest.
TDTD is gearing up for Phase 2 of the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways: the plan for sustainability. Our goal is to offer partners the tools and resources to sustain the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways initiative. Upcoming meetings will be held to discuss the needs as well as opportunities that will bring communities together through the common goal of promoting the area encompassed by each trail. By providing the partners with additional support, it ensures that the integrity of the initiative is withheld through clear brand standards and continues to provide the traveler with the most up-to-date information.
Top Secret Trail Launched at 10th Annual Secret City Festival
The 10th Annual Secret City Festival was the perfect setting to launch the Top Secret Trail. The 15th of 16 self-guided driving tours in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program, the trail is made up of sites and attractions in Knox, Anderson, Campbell, Overton, Fentress, Morgan, Scott, Clay, Roane and Pickett counties.
Executive Director Katy Brown, Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted the event. Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and Commissioner John Schroer, Tennessee Department of Transportation, made special remarks.
“Oak Ridge was pleased to host the launch for the Top Secret Trail," said Katy Brown, executive director, Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Working with the Department of Tourist Development and our tourism partners in this region is always a recipe for success. We are confident that the Top Secret Trail will have a great economic impact in our communities.”
The Top Secret Trail allows travelers to explore through Middle and East Tennessee, touring fascinating towns, from the “Secret City” of Oak Ridge and its atomic mysteries to utopian towns such as Harriman, “the town that temperance built” and Rugby, one of the most authentically preserved historic villages in America.
Visitors can also celebrate Tennessee history makers by visiting Green McAdoo Cultural Center, the birthplace of desegregation, Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park, where you’ll find a replica of Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s log cabin. Sergeant Alvin C. York Historic Park, dedicated to one of the most decorated war heroes of World War I, is also featured on Top Secret.
Governor’s Conference on Tourism Registration Now Open
Plans are well under way for the 2012 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which will be held September 19 – 21 “Where Smoky Mountain Fun Begins” – beautiful Sevierville, Tennessee. The Tennessee Tourism Roundtable, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and our hosts in Sevierville are all working hard to insure this year’s conference is the best ever!
Excellent keynote speakers, outstanding educational seminars, updates on the Department of Tourist Development’s activities and programs, as well as networking opportunities with other tourism professionals and tourism industry suppliers – all are being designed to help the state’s $14.1 billion tourism industry grow and prosper. And there will be time for fun, too – from the opening night event at the fabulous Wilderness at the Smokies Wild Water Dome indoor water park to free admission to Dollywood for conference attendees – great times are guaranteed!
“We are delighted to be hosting the Governor’s Conference in Sevierville this year,” said Brenda McCroskey, CEO of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce and current Tennessee Tourism Roundtable Chair. “We’re going to be pulling out all the stops to showcase our city to our tourism friends from across the state!”
The Governor’s Conference on Tourism is produced by the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
Detailed conference information and on-line registration can be found at the http://www.tenntourismroundtable.com A special discounted early-bird registration rate is being offered through July 31.
Vacation Guide Ad Sales and Listings Collection Underway
Building on the momentum of the exciting new format introduced this year, the 2013 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide will once again feature large, captivating photography and powerful, experiential copy to showcase everything the state has to offer.
Published by our longtime partner, Miles, the new guide will include content highlighting Tennessee’s rich music legacy, the state’s great outdoor adventure, off-the-beaten-path travel excursions and delicious farm-to-table experiences. New elements on tap include promotion of the state’s seasonal travel sweepstakes, various ways to stay connected to Tennessee throughout the year and integration of a GPS-enabled online trails platform to complement our coverage of Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. And for the first time, the new 2013 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide also will be published as an interactive ipad app offering additional content and rich media for readers – and additional exposure for advertisers!
PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS! Advertising sales are now underway, so don’t miss this great chance to promote your destination in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s primary fulfillment piece. Contact your sales representative today for more information:
Mary Steadman (Upper Cumberland and East Tennessee) – Mary.Steadman@MilesPartnership.com, (423) 956-4330
Abbie Gristy (Middle and West Tennessee) – Abbie.Gristy@MilesPartnership.com, (731) 298-1003
UPDATE YOUR INFORMATION! Each year, we also conduct an extensive data collection process to ensure we publish the most accurate business information possible in the Vacation Guide. Representatives from Miles will be reaching out to you in the coming weeks to update your information and arrange for your free listing in the 2013 guide. As always, you can also log in to our data extranet anytime to access and update your business partner profile page at www.tnvacation.com/vendor.
SYTA Conference in Nashville August 24-28
As a reminder, there is still an opportunity to participate in the Student Youth Travel Association this year, as the annual conference will be held August 24-28 in Nashville.
SYTA volunteer opportunities are still available if you would like to get involved. Not only will you help showcase why Tennessee is the best destination for student group travel with our friendliness and hospitality, but you can use that opportunity to network and build new relationships with SYTA attendees, as well as other partners across our state.
You do not need to be a SYTA member to volunteer, and if your organization is not yet a member, this could be a great opportunity (convenient proximity and networking potential) to get involved and determine if a SYTA membership would benefit your organization.
If you have already signed up to be a volunteer, or have been recruited to be on a committee, THANK YOU!
Lastly, the TDTD will be updating its group sales profile sheet, specifically targeting the student market, so if you have student friendly updates within your organization or destination that you would like to be considered for inclusion, please email that information by July 16, 2012 to Bennjin at Bennjin.email@example.com.
<p>Tennessee Vacation Guide ROI Study Provides Impressive Data<br /><br />A recent yearlong survey of more than 3,000 readers of the 2011 edition found the guide …</p>
<li><em>Generated nearly 7,200 trips to Tennessee that would not have been taken otherwise.</em></li>
<li><em>Increased visitor spending by more than $12 million because of those trips.</em></li>
<li><em>Encouraged visitors to stay an additional 1,274 days because of the information they read.</em></li>
<li><em>Generated a total economic impact of more than $12 million to the state.</em></li>
<p>In cooperation with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Vacation Guide publisher, Miles, this independent study was conducted by Destination Analysts, a national leader in travel marketing research. The goals of the survey were to determine how the guide is used by consumers and just how effective it is in influencing and affecting travel to Tennessee. And is it ever! Additional results found that …</p>
<li><em>96% were “satisfied” or “very satisfied with the guide.</em></li>
<li><em>More than 63% made a trip to Tennessee after reading the guide.</em></li>
<li><em>Nearly 87% said it was the guide that influenced their decision to visit.</em></li>
<li><em>Almost 75% said they increased their length of stay because of the guide – most by an average of nearly two additional days.</em></li>
<p>As the state’s primary fulfillment piece, the Official Tennessee Vacation Guide has always been a great way to promote your destination to travelers actively planning a visit to the state. Now, we have the numbers to prove it! To learn more about advertising opportunities available, contact your destination specialist below:</p>
<li><em>Mary Steadman (Upper Cumberland and East Tennessee) – Mary.Steadman@MilesPartnership.com, (423) 956-4330</em></li>
<li><em>Abbie Gristy (Middle and West Tennessee) – Abbie.Gristy@MilesPartnership.com, (731)298-1003</em></li>