Dear Tourism Friends,
“School’s out!” Those glorious words signifying summer fun, freedom and vacation adventure still resonate in my soul many years after my last school day. And I am not alone. Millions of Americans and international visitors are planning to exercise their ‘birthright to vacation,’ many of them right here in Tennessee…and I know you all are ready to show them a memorable time!
Predictions are that travel will continue to climb this year. A recent CNN article referenced AAA’s forecast for an increase in travel despite higher prices at the pump. AAA also predicted that travelers would stay closer to home and take shorter trips, which is good news for Tennessee, since we are less than a day’s drive from 2/3rds of the U.S. population.
The National Tourism Week in May gave our tourism industry all across the state a number of special opportunities to showcase the importance of tour and travel as an economic driver in Tennessee. Thanks to all of you who had special ceremonies and activities to highlight this time of the year.
One special highlight of the week was the grand opening of our new I-75 Welcome Center in Hamilton County. I was honored to share the ribbon-cutting ceremony with TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely, Congressman Zack Wamp, Commissioner of Veterans Affairs John Keys, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and East Ridge Mayor Mike Steele. Barry Young, director of welcome centers, and our tourism staff are to be commended for coordinating this outstanding event.
Back in Nashville, our department hosted the 2nd Annual Celebration Fair at the William Snodgrass /Tennessee Tower. More than 20 state tourism related agencies and organizations participated, resulting in over 500 people learning about the many places to visit in Tennessee. Perhaps a few of them will end up vacationing in your neck of the woods thanks to the great job done by Assistant Commissioner Phyllis Qualls-Brooks and the tourism team in putting this together.
We all have the privilege of showcasing Tennessee’s great attractions, amazing outdoor opportunities, world-class music, and fine southern cuisine - all wrapped up in the genuine friendliness and hospitality that initially drew me and many others to this incredible state. In keeping with our Tourism Week theme, “Tourism: Tennessee’s Front Door,” let’s stand ready to welcome our guests and give them lots of wonderful reasons to come back to visit us over and over again. Have a great summer!
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Pigeon Forge is #1 with Motorcoaches
Members of The National Motorcoach Network have named Pigeon Forge their “Top Motorcoach Destination of 2007.” The mega vacation destination jumped from 14th place last year - leapfrogging last year’s winners, New York City and Washington, D.C. Steve Kirchner, editor and publisher of the network’s magazine, Byways, called Pigeon Forge’s #1 rating a “major surprise and upset.”
“Our survey is not random (but is) a simple tabulation of National Motorcoach Network charter and tour operators and their prediction of where their coaches will be traveling in the new year,” said Kirchner.
Pigeon Forge is a gateway community to America’s most visited national park—Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, Nancy Reese of Starr Tours in Trenton, NJ, says it is a combination of the destination’s price point, major attractions such as Dollywood, and the variety of shows that have the greatest appeal. Retail shopping is another tourism magnet. There are more than 200 stores in the city’s six outlet malls and more than 140 craft, gift and special shops.
Mark Miller of Sweet Magnolia Tours in Branson also points to Pigeon Forge’s close proximity to other popular destinations along I-40, such as, Asheville, Nashville and Memphis. Nashville was awarded the #4 city of destination. In another part of the survey, the Grand Ole Opry/Gaylord Opryland, Graceland and Dollywood made the Top 10 list of Man-Made attractions. The State of Tennessee ranked #4 on the list of Top 10 Motorcoach States.
Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, will tell you that their appeal is not just about being close. “Our group sales department works every day to interest tour operators in Pigeon Forge, to help them plan itineraries and to educate group leaders.”
The motorcoach industry is vital to Pigeon Forge’s only industry – tourism. Downey’s department and the American Bus Association commissioned Guerrilla Economics of Brooklyn, N.Y. to study the impact of motorcoach tourism on Pigeon Forge. Its research was astounding! In 2005, 5,000 coaches transported 200,000 visitors to the city, spending $56.7 million…equaling 7.3% of the city’s gross receipts of $777 million. More than 950 jobs were supported by motorcoach activity. “We’re proud that the National Motorcoach Network sees us in the top spot nationally,” Downey says. “We work to get them here, and we work to get them back.”
Welcome Centers go all out for National Tourism Week
As thousands of people visited Tennessee Welcome Centers around the state during the month of May, tourism professionals greeted them in celebration of National Tourism Week. Events included the grand opening of the I-75 Welcome Center in Chattanooga, a new art project dedication at Smith County and some "friendly hijacking" at Bristol. During the nine-day national celebration in Tennessee, tourism partners visited area centers and provided visitors with refreshments, information, and special entertainment.
On May 14th, ribbons were cut to mark the grand opening of the newly built center in Chattanooga on Interstate 75. Tennessee Department of Transportation's Commissioner Gerald Nicely joined Commissioner Susan Whitaker in cutting the ribbon during the event. Other attending dignitaries included Congressman Zach Wamp, TN Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner John Keys, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and East Ridge Mayor Mike Steele.
Dedication of "Marking Time"
The dedication of "Marking Time," a sundial created by Knoxville metal artist Preston Farabow took place on May 24th at the Smith County Center. The sculpture, "Marking Time," extends 100 feet x 50 feet and is approximately 12 feet in height at the tip of the main structure. The project is a cooperative effort among First Lady Andrea Conte, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
The Kingsport CVB gave 18 tourists a surprise when they provided them with gift packages to return to East Tennessee. The "friendly hijacking" packages included overnight accommodations, dining and entertainment. The annual adventure giveaway is a way to promote the region to travelers who had not selected the area for a vacation.
Tourism attractions, chambers of commerce and convention and visitors bureaus from all corners of the state provided all sorts of treats throughout the week at each of the thirteen Centers. Organizations including the Loveless Café', Country Music Hall of Fame, Dixie Stampede, Mayfield Dairy, Coca Cola Bottling, and the Casey Jones/Old Country Store spent hours providing vacationers with candy, lemonade, country ham and other delicious Tennessee foods.
Welcome Center Employees Honored
Welcome Center Employee of the Month for April was Linda Henson of the Nickajack Welcome Center. Linda, an eight-year veteran of Tourist Development, has worked at Smith County, Jellico and Nickajack Welcome Centers during her tenure. The Department has received many comment cards and letters telling us how helpful Linda is to our visitors.
"Linda was the most accommodating person I've met," one visitor wrote. "She was very pleasant, helpful and had a smile on her face. She made our trip to Tennessee a very pleasant experience.";
For the month of May, we salute the Welcome Center Regional Manager for Northeast Tennessee Laura Munn. Laura began working for the Department in 1983 at the rest areas. In 1991 she moved to the new Hartford Welcome Center as a hostess. Laura was promoted to the Manager of that center in 1996 and then to Regional Manager in 2005. She currently supervises the Hartford, Jellico, and Bristol centers and will oversee the new Unicoi County Center when it is completed.
"Laura has shown a lot of interest in tourism for the State of Tennessee. Her dedication and hard work earned her a promotion and as manager she worked with her employees to provide better service to our visitors, to obtain more information on out state, and to stress cleanliness and safety. She cares about each of employee and their well being. She promotes Tennessee with great pride and professionalism," said Barry Young, director of welcome centers.
Tourists Appreciate Welcome Center Staff
First impressions are a key focus for Tennessee's 13 welcome centers as travelers come from far and wide to meet our people, explore our regions and marvel at our attractions. But, lasting impressions are birthed when a visitor needs more than information and a break.
Imagine a five-year-old girl not being able to return to her kindergarten class because her eye glasses were left at our Hartford welcome center. Thanks to our staff at Hartford, the glasses were located and immediately shipped to a very grateful family.
Losing money on vacation is a hopeless thought, but hope was not lost when an honest guest at the center found a travelers wallet containing $700 and delivered it to our staff. The centers manager contacted the owner who picked it up on his way home from Florida.
Money can be replaced, but the lives of our children are priceless. Just ask a wife and husband and their 19 physically disabled foster children who were stranded at our Mitchellville center on a wintery Tennessee night. Truck drivers sprang into action and collected money for 20 pizzas, while the centers manager called on her fiancé to pick up the order. Because of bad weather, a normally 10 minute drive from the pizzeria transpired into a treacherous hour-long journey back to the center and the hungry family.
"Our welcome centers are the front door to our state," said Barry Young, director of welcome centers. "But, we want to do more than make them feel welcome. We want them to know that they are welcome back."
Tourism’s Fair Full of Fun
It was exciting times…fun-filled, entertaining and informative. That was the general consensus from attendees at the 2nd Annual Tourism Celebration Fair. The DJ played hit after hit, and the attendees visited booth after booth learning about state services.
It was a celebration of tourism during National Tourism Week. The fair was designed to focus on the economic impact tourism has within the state and the many state agencies that are a part of the tourism industry.
The department showcased all of its promotional materials. A big screen flashed the tourism commercials, including the premier spot featuring Dolly and Elvis. The print campaign was on exhibit along with all the printed materials such as the vacation guides and the seasonal brochures. Another booth featured the education video and materials about careers in tourism.
Commissioner Whitaker with
More than 20 state agencies participated in the fair, ranging from state parks from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to the Education Department. Agencies were able to show what an integral role they play in the tourism industry. Tourism officials from throughout the area attended the event and were able to learn more about other agencies and the services they provide. Rhonda Adams, director of tourism for Dickson County said, “This was a great event, and I was able to learn so much and have fun getting to know people from many state agencies that can provide services to us in our area.”
The fair, with more than 500 attendees, was held in the William Snodgrass/Tennessee Tower Building in Nashville also featured live entertainment, refreshments and a good time, had by all.
German Site Up and Running
TNVacation.com Translated Into German
Herzlich Willkommen bei Tennessee Tourism, dem Verkehrsbüro des Staates Tennessee für Deutschland, Österreich und die Schweiz in Bielefeld. Eine erste Orientierungshilfe gibt Ihnen Tennessee im Überblick – alles von Elvis Presley in Memphis über Country Music in Nashville bis zu den Great Smoky Mountains. Bestellen Sie unsere kostenlosen Broschüren und Straßenkarten.
These words are Tennessee Tourism’s introduction featured on the German translation of tnvacation.com! The site, which replaces a stand-alone German Tennessee site, can currently be accessed via www.tennesseetourism.de and will soon be directly linked to tnvacation.com.
“We made the switch in the very first seconds of May," said Wolfgang Streitborger, Tennessee’s German representative commented. "Designsensory did a marvelous job, and I was proud to present the new pages to the German press and also introduce it to many users in an e-mail…Thank you!”
While this is our first flight into website language translation, more translations are expected. Next on the agenda will be a Spanish translation, expected later this year.
USA TODAY Features Tennessee’s Music
Don't miss this weekend's edition of the USA TODAY, dated June 1st. Tennessee is the featured destination with three pages of great coverage focusing on music tourism.
The Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association (NETTA) announced winners of the 10th annual Pinnacle Awards on May 9 at MeadowView Marriott in Kingsport.
The Pinnacle Awards program pays tribute to individuals, businesses and organizations for exemplary quality and performance in tourism developmentand promotion.
Winners were announced in four categories: special events; special projects; advertising & promotions (print and multi-media),and public relations. There is also a volunteer award.
DeSear Named Manager of the Year
Ripley Entertainment, Inc., a global leader in the attractions industry for more than 85 years, has named Ryan DeSear, attractions manager for Ripley Entertainment of Sevier County, Manager of the Year.
Tennessee State Parks Compete For National Award
Tennessee State Parks is one of three finalists competing nationally for the 2007 Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management in the state parks category. Gold Medal Awards are presented by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association.
Opry House Named Top Venue by ACM
The Academy of Country Music has named the Grand Ole Opry House Venue of the Year. The venue is the home of the Grand Ole Opry and also hosts countless concerts, television tapings, award shows, corporate events, and other shows throughout the year.
Uncle Dave Macon Days Selected as Top 20 Event for the Month of July, 2007
The Uncle Dave Macon Days Festival has just been selected as one of Southeast Tourism Society's Top 20 Events for the month of July, 2007. Uncle Dave Macon, one of the pioneers of the Grand Ole Opry, is the inspiration for this old-time music and dance festival. It includes major competitions in banjo, fiddle, buck dancing, clogging and more, plus food, arts and crafts and the Motorless Parade featuring mules, horses and wagons.
CVB and Radio Station Promoting Tourism
The Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau has created a new partnership with online radio station All Memphis Music to broadcast Memphis music and also promote Memphis as a premier tourist and convention destination. The broadcast reinforces the Memphis brand, Home of the Blues, Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll."
The ducks of the Peabody Hotel
New Leader of Ducks is Ready for the Long March
Jason Sensat of Arlington has been named duckmaster at The Peabody. Five days a week, twice a day, Sensat walks the red carpet, greeted by flashing cameras and smiling faces from around the world.
Cities Earn $10,000 Main Street Grants
The city of Murfreesboro earns a $10,000 Main Street Innovation Grant to assist with the Phase II Development of the Heritage Center, a partnership with the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and MTSU Center for Historic Preservation.
Also, the city of Jackson will receive $10,000 in state funding for being recognized as part of the state's Main Street program.
The funds are part of an overall $200,000 in grants that goes to various cities for downtown promotions, improvements and the development of new projects.
Convention Official Graduates from Tourism Marketing Program
Barbara Wolke has graduated from the Southeast Tourism Society's Marketing College. Barbara Wolke, CHSP, TMP, director of group sales for the Rutherford County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Walking Horse Celebration Takes Tourism Honor
Again For the 19th time in 20 years, The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has been given recognition as one of the top twenty events in the Southeast Tourism Society. "This is a wonderful honor for The Celebration, our community and our industry," said Celebration CEO Ron Thomas
Mary Beth Hopper Elected to Jackson Hotel & Lodging Association Officers
The Jackson Hotel & Lodging Association recently elected Mary Beth Hopper their new treasurer. Hopper is the director of the Tourism Association of Southwest Tennessee, a non profit agency dedicated to tourism development and promotion in an eight county area.
TV Morning Show Features West Tennessee Tourism Manager
Congratulations to our own West Tennessee Manager, Marty Marbry. She now hosts a tourism feature segment on "Good Morning Memphis" on a Fox affiliate. She features tourism attractions and events statewide. The segment is posted on their website, myfoxmemphis.com. and the station also linked tnvacation.com to their website. Marty's next segment will be broadcast on June 18.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You