The month of May has truly been a time of enormous upheaval and economic disruption to many fellow Tennesseans and to the tourism businesses in and around Nashville. In the midst of this extraordinarily difficult time, the people of this great state have impressed the world with their response to the needs of their neighbors. Amidst the terrible images of flooded homes and beloved attractions, another picture began to emerge - one of thousands of people just showing up to offer help in any way they could. I know I was not the only one moved to tears by what was happening, both by the devastation and by the immediate outpouring of love and hard work. Tennessee's Volunteer Spirit came alive for millions of viewers who had an opportunity to look into the heart of the people of this state.
The tourism industry was no exception, as partners from across the state stepped up to make a difference. And in true Tennessee fashion, the "Show Goes On." Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, included a “shout-out” to Tennessee during his recent keynote address at International POW WOW. He pointed out to the 6,000 world-wide tourism leaders attending POW WOW that the “Show Goes On” in Tennessee, commending the Tennessee attendees who wore their special t-shirts “Tennessee, We Never Missed A Beat.”
Music speaks to our emotions, in good times and in hard times. It’s been especially heartwarming to see the music community of Tennessee use their talents and influence to help flood victims.
Grand Ole Opry superstars Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs and Steve Wariner picked up their guitars and hit the Ryman stage on Tuesday night, May 26 as the Opry was streamed live throughout the world. This night of stellar performances helped raise funds for Middle Tennessee flood relief and also kicked off the Opry's months-long 85th birthday celebration. The event was held at the Ryman Auditorium, due to flood damage at the Grand Ole Opry House.
East Tennessee native and longtime Nashville resident Dolly Parton set aside May 22 and 23 as a fundraising weekend at Dollywood, Dixie Stampede and Dollywood Splash Country. All net admission proceeds were earmarked for Music City flood relief.
:pullquote:There is no effort too small or insignificant when it comes to tourism partners helping each other. The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga will serve as a temporary home for Gibson, a guitar fish that was found inside the Nashville Aquarium Restaurant in Opry Mills after the flooding.
National Tourism Week gave us several opportunities to focus on the importance of this industry to the economy of Tennessee, including the much anticipated dedication of the beautiful new
I-26 Welcome Center. It's been fourteen years since a Welcome Center has been built in a new location and they sure picked a good one, with its breath-taking view of the mountains. Under the able direction of Welcome Center Director Barry Young and his excellent staff, the Center will be a wonderful first impression for travelers through Northeast Tennessee. I want to thank TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely, Congressman Phil Roe and all the local officials and special guests who participated in the opening ceremonies. It was a great celebration.
Two new trails in our Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program were launched in the past few weeks. The Sunny Side Trail was launched during National Tourism Week, May 13 & 14. Three separate events held at the Robert Tino Gallery in Sevierville, The General Morgan Inn in Greeneville and the Bristol Motor Speedway, helped launch the trail. Each event was filled with high-energy and enthusiasm about the many attractions on this 400 mile trail through 12 East Tennessee counties.
We also launched the Nashville’s Trace Trail in Middle Tennessee on June 2. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, along with fellow Commissioners Gerald Nicely and Matt Kisber, as well as National Park Superintendent Cameron Sholly and Nashville CVB Executive Director Butch Spyridon, were on hand to help officially open the trail. The trail starts in Nashville with the backstage stories of Music City and travels through eight counties and along 102 miles. Nashville’s Trace includes Tennessee towns linked together by the history and scenery of the Natchez Trace Parkway, one of Tennessee’s five National Scenic Byways. The launch was held at three sites, the Loveless Barn, located at the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Strand Theatre & Art Gallery in Hohenwald and the Welcome Center at Collinwood.
With Bonnaroo and CMA Music Fest coming up this week, Tennessee once again takes center stage and invites the world of music lovers to join the party. What a perfect opportunity to show the world we're open for business and ready for a good time! I know I'm ready, and there's no place better to be than right here in Tennessee. Thank you for making it such a special place. I look forward to seeing many of you (and millions of our closest friends) getting out and enjoying Tennessee this summer.
Have fun and don't forget the sunscreen!
P.S. Good news! As we were literally going to 'press' with this month's newsletter, we received the welcomed news that the state budget had been passed with our tourism dollars intact. This has been a very difficult budget year with many hard decisions on where to spend the state's precious resources. We are greatly appreciative of the support and the confidence that has been placed in the department and this industry. We look forward to being conscientious stewards of the resources we have been given, continuing to give a strong return on the dollars invested. A huge thank you to everyone who played a role in making this happen: Governor Bredesen, the General Assembly and, of course, all of you!
First-ever Welcome Center at I-26 in Unicoi County Opens
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Tennessee Department of Transportation hosted the official grand opening ceremonies of the brand new I- 26 Tennessee Welcome Center May 14. The center is located in Unicoi County, near Erwin, and is the first-ever welcome center located on this interstate. The grand opening event was part of Tennessee’s National Tourism and Travel Week festivities.
Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely were on hand to bring remarks and officially open the center with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Other national, state and local officials in attendance were United States Congressman Phil Roe, Tennessee Senator Steve Southerland and Tennessee Congressman David Hawk. Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch, Unicoi City Mayor Johnny Lynch and Erwin City Mayor William Don Lewis were also in attendance. On-hand to add some great Tennessee music was the ETSU Bluegrass Band.
Commissioner Whitaker celebrates with staff
of the Unicoi Welcome Center
Designed as a log cabin, the facility combines the warmth of Tennessee with the modern advantage of new construction. The I-26 Welcome Center in Unicoi County can be accessed via both eastbound and westbound lanes. Erwin is located east of Johnson City near the North Carolina border. Interstate 26 is approximately 349 miles in length traveling through Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Tennessee’s Welcome Centers are constructed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and are operated by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
Nashville’s Trace Trail Launch
The Tennessee Departments of Tourist Development and Transportation, in partnership with the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau and tourism organizations in eight counties, officially launched the Nashville’s Trace Trail on June 2.
The special launch event was held at the Loveless Barn, located at the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Special remarks were given by Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and National Parks Superintendent Cameron Sholly. Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville CVB, hosted and emceed the event.
The second tier of the celebration took place at 3 p.m. at The Strand Theatre and Art Gallery in Hohenwald where dignitaries gathered for refreshments and a main street tour. The final event of the day-long celebration took place at the Wayne County Welcome Center, just off of milepost 355, as officials were welcomed with a special presentation at the Tennessee entry point of the Natchez Trace Parkway, on the Tennessee/Alabama state line.
Nashville’s Trace features 165 tourism sites in Nashville, Davidson County and seven counties bordering the Natchez Trace Parkway, including Williamson, Maury, Hickman, Lewis, Lawrence, Wayne and Perry counties.
The trail is a road trip through charming Tennessee towns linked together by the history and scenery of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The trail starts in Nashville with the backstage stories of Music City, and travels 102 miles of the Natchez Trace, directing tourists to historic main streets, quaint restaurants, scenic spots for outdoor adventure, Amish Country, wineries and unique local attractions, including Puckett’s Grocery in Franklin and Leiper’s Fork, Centerville’s Coble Country Store, and Lawrenceburg’s Crockett Theatre.
Sunny Side Trail Launch
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development officially launched the Sunny Side Trail, a mapped driving route that begins in Sevierville and covers 12 East Tennessee counties—including nearly 300 points of interest. The launch of the trail, which is the second trail to officially open in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways statewide program, was celebrated May 13 and 14 with three special events in Sevierville, Greeneville and Bristol.
Commissioner Whitaker stands with local tourism
officials and guests at one of the events for
the Sunny Side Trail launch.
The trail unveiling ceremony in Sevierville was held at the Robert A. Tino Gallery May 13, where attendees could view the artist in action, hear country music group Mountain Ruckus play “Keep on the Sunny Side” and enjoy refreshments from Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. County Mayor Larry Waters read a proclamation declaring May 13 Sunny Side Day. Special recognition was given to African American carpenter and cabinetmaker, Lewis C. Buckner, who overcame his life as a slave to become a successful house builder in Sevier County from 1880 to 1921. At least 15 of the dwellings still exist today.
Greeneville’s opening festivities took place at General Morgan Inn and Conference Center May 14. At the event, special recognition was given to Landair, a warehousing and distribution company based in Greeneville. Chief Executive Officer of the company, Scott Niswonger, announced 125 Landair trucks will display the Sunny Side Trail logo and web address as part of the trail’s initial promotion. In celebration of the event, Commissioner Whitaker was joined by participating dignitaries Greene County Partnership/Chamber of Commerce Chairman Randy Rumbley, Greene County Tourism Director Tammy Kinser, and Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association CEO Claudia Moody.
The same day, a launch event of the Sunny Side Trail was held at Bristol Motor Speedway, a stop on the new Sunny Side Trail. The launch coincided with the speedway’s kick-off of 100 days to their 100th NASCAR SPRINT Cup event – the Irwin Tools Night Race taking place August 21. To mark the significance of the race, Bristol Motor Speedway began awarding fans with a prize every day, for 100 days, leading up race day.
Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways is a statewide initiative encompassing all 95 counties along 16 regional trails, and featuring Tennessee's five National Scenic Byways. The Sunny Side Trail promotes Sevier, Cocke, Greene, Washington, Unicoi, Carter, Johnson, Sullivan, Hawkins, Hancock, Hamblen and Jefferson counties.
2010 Governor’s Conference on Tourism Update
Conference Information and Registration Now Available On-Line
Information on the 2010 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which will be held September 22-24 at the MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort and Convention Center in Kingsport, is now available on the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable Web site.
“The Tennessee Tourism Roundtable, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and our hosts in the City of Kingsport and the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association are all working hard to ensure that this year’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism is the best ever,” said TTR Executive Director John Whisenant. “Persons interested in attending the conference will find all types of helpful information on our web site, including the program schedule, information on special events and activities taking place at the conference, information on our host hotel, and information on the 2010 Certified Tennessee Tourism Professional College. In addition, persons can register for the conference on-line from our web site, or if they prefer, download hard copy registration forms to be mailed to our office.”
Discounted registration fee available through July 31!
For the first time, a special discounted registration fee is available for persons who register for the conference by July 31. “We realize that this is a challenging year of all of our industry,” Whisenant continued. “As a result, we wanted to offer a discounted registration fee, which will save individuals $25.00 per registration. This discounted cost is actually less than last year’s conference registration fee.”
Tourism Marketing Super Seminar: “The Next Generation of Visitors: Creating Experiences that Connect with Millennials”
What does the next generation of travelers and tourists look like, and how can we create experiences that meet their motivations, expectations, and needs? During this fun, energetic, and interactive session, attendees will learn the results of new research on the Millennial Generation (born 1980-2000) and consider how to create successful visitor experiences for this increasingly important audience. In addition, they will learn what marketing strategies and tactics will best connect with this group and have the opportunity to pose questions directly to a panel of Millennials.
The Super Seminar will be presented by two nationally-recognized experts and speakers on the subject: Lori Cogan. Senior Vice President of The Tombras Group, and Sylvia Matiko, Co-Founder of A Different View. “We are very excited about having two such outstanding presenters for this year’s Super Seminar,” said Whisenant. “They both have a tremendous depth of understanding and experience on the subject, and are known for sharing their knowledge in an easy-to-understand and engaging manner.”
This year’s Super Seminar will be held on Wednesday, September 22 from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM (EDT), and is included in the Governor’s Conference registration fee.
The Governor’s Conference on Tourism is produced by the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
Civil War Update
Civil War Map-Guides Available
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development announces the Tennessee Civil War Trails map-guides are now available. The map-guide identifies nearly 200 Civil War sites throughout Tennessee on this self-guided tour of the trails.
The Civil War Trails journey through the statewide Tennessee Civil War National Heritage area, which is highlighted by 150 trail markers. Approximately 115 sites are currently in the works, with several of them recently interpreted that will later be added to the trails.
Each site can be explored at one’s own pace, and many offer other historical and recreational opportunities. Hundreds of antique and specialty shops can be found on the trails, in addition to taverns and restaurants, preserved battlefields and much more.
The Tennessee Civil War Trails program is part of a five-state trails system that encourages the exploration of both well-known and less-familiar sites associated with the Civil War. Together, more than 1,000 places tell the stories of civilians and soldiers during the war in Tennessee, as well as Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. Five hundred thousand brochures were printed through the tourism office, but knowledge of the trails in Tennessee reaches 2.5 million through cross-promotion with the other four states.
The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial, to begin next year, marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The five-year commemoration of the war, from 2011 to 2015, will be highlighted with discussions of the battles, events and stories of the Civil War, brief dramas and musical performances. For more information, please visit www.tncivilwar150.com. Other good news about the website, it received 10,000 page views the first month of its launch.
Civil War Trail Marker Dedication Ceremonies
Four counties worked together to schedule joint Civil War Trails Marker dedications. The counties included Smith, Jackson, Trousdale and Wilson. The towns includedCarthage - Smith County Courthouse; Granville - Granville Museum; Hartsville - Hartsville Chamber of Commerce, and Lebanon - Town Square
Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker along with Dr. Van West, Director for the Center of Historic Preservation and the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area at MTSU were keynote speakers at all four dedications. Attendees at some of the dedications included Sen. Mae Beavers and Rep. Stratton Bone as well as tourism partners and local officials and historians.
Randall Clemons, Dr. Carroll Van West,
Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Lee Curtis,
Ruth Dyal, Patricia Gray and Derrick Smith
The importance of the Civil War Trails program is that these are “newly interpreted” Civil War sites which adds to the overall tourism product available in Tennessee. Civil War trail markers will continue to enhance the economic opportunities for communities across our state.
A unique point of the events included two Civil War re-enactors escorting Commissioner Whitaker to the marker in Lebanon for a first-person interpretation of the city’s newest Civil War Trails marker.
Furthermore, Dr. West remarked about Wilson County whose town square was flooded during the May flooding, prior to the dedication ceremony. Still the volunteer spirit prevailed and Tennesseans worked to protect and preserve this historical building, which is featured on the front cover of the Tennessee Civil War map guide.
These dedications continue to demonstrate that the state’s citizens recognize the importance of honoring history with significant efforts to preserve their historic courthouse in Wilson County and other buildings and landmarks throughout these four counties as well as other areas throughout the state.
Facts & Trends
State Tourism Web-site Continues to Move Center Stage
Tennessee’s tourism web site, Tnvacation.com, vaulted to an impressive #7 ranking of all 50 state tourism websites during the March 2010 survey by Quantcast. The monthly report on the domestic audience measures the number of “unique individuals” to visit each state site.
Tourism attractions and lodging properties that have set up their free partner page and keep it updated have a great opportunity to promote services to key vacation planners. If you have not set up your page—now is the time!
A variety of tourism resources from the state tourism office are also available online at tnvacation.com/industry.
Hospitality Businesses Achieve Positive Results Through Social Media
Whether it is a place to eat, stay or play, chances are growing that there is a Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare or some other social media presence behind the scenes. Jennifer Van Grove, Associate Editor for Mashable.com says that, “because social media is a platform for the customer’s voice — and that voice can be heard by anyone in the world — the hospitality industry as a whole has embraced social media in a huge way.”
“Customer service is the most obvious way for the hospitality industry to use social media,” says Van Grove. However in her online article for Mashable.com, she showcases how others, big and small, are utilizing these communicating tools with positive results.
Welcome Center Employee of the Month
Since 1996, Melvin Fleming has been employed by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development at the I-40 Shelby County (Memphis) Welcome Center. According to Welcome Center Manager George Stewart, Fleming is an overall good employee and his work ethic has earned him the title of May 2010 Tennessee Welcome Center's Employee of the Month.
"Melvin is the rare type of individual who finds things to do without being asked, and is willing to do anything that is asked of him," Stewart said. "He also communicates very well and is always willing to work past his shift when needed. He keeps an eye out for what supplies are needed at the Center and for what equipment needs repair."
Besides his dedicated work, Fleming has a great working relationship with his fellow employees as well as visitors.
Industry Applause is designed to highlight and recognize the achievements of our industry partners.
Dolly Helps Nashville
May 22nd and 23rd 2010 was Dolly Helps Nashville week-end at Dollywood and at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction in Pigeon Forge. All net admission proceeds from both properties were dedicated for flood relief. On June 2nd, Dolly presented a $250,000 check, earmarked for United Way’s Middle Tennessee flood relief, to Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.
Dolly Parton grew up in Sevier County but moved to Nashville 46 years ago. "I have family and friends in both places, and when one place hurts; I think it is just right for the other to help,” Parton said.
Parton made several special appearances at various theaters and locations throughout the amusement park and at Dixie Stampede to greet guests and thank them for their support.
Pauly Award Winners Presented
Knoxville Tourism Alliance (KTA) presented the annual Pauly Awards during its annual Greater Knoxville Tourism Awards and Scholarship Luncheon on May 6, 2010. The Pauly Awards are sponsored, in part, by the University of Tennessee Tourism Institute and honor Paul Sherbakoff, a leader in Knoxville Tourism. Also announced was the Tourism Impact Award presented to the National Street Rod Association by Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation. Guest speakers for the event were John Joslyn and his wife, Mary Kellogg, co-owners of Titanic Pigeon Forge.
Pinnacle Award Winners Announced
The Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association (NETTA) announced winners of the 13th annual Pinnacle Awards on May 5, during a awards luncheon and ceremony at MeadowView Marriott in Kingsport. The Pinnacle Awards program pays tribute to individuals, businesses and organizations for exemplary quality and performance in tourism development and promotion.
Memphis Themed Musicals Rocking Broadway Critics
May was a pinnacle month for two Memphis themed musicals as Broadway critics offered their high accolades. “Memphis the Musical” has been nominated for eight 2010 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The musical also was a big winner at the 2010 Drama Desk Awards; taking home four trophies. On May 17, the 60th annual Outer Critics Circle Awards, which honor the best in Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre, presented Memphis with four awards, the most of any production of the season.
"Million Dollar Quartet,” a story about Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, was also nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The Tony Awards will be presented on Sunday, June 13 at Radio City Music Hall and broadcast live on CBS.
Environmental CARE Award Announced
Doubletree Hotel Chattanooga
Vision Hospitality's Doubletree Hotel Chattanooga was presented the Environmental CARE Award by Doubletree Hotels on Thursday, May 13, 2010. The annual award is given to one of the brand’s 225 properties nationwide that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to implementing and demonstrating sustainability and environmental outreach efforts.
Vision Hospitality's sustainability efforts and practices are not limited to the Doubletree Hotel. They are currently constructing a 135-room Hampton Inn & Suites, which will be LEED certified, located across 4th Street from the Doubletree.
Bill Mish is the General Manager of the Doubletree Chattanooga and President of the Board of the Tennessee Hospitality Association.
Take Me There…for Meetings
The Chattanooga Area Convention & Visitors Bureau was recently honored with two awards: ConventionSouth magazine’s 2009 Reader’s Choice Award and Successful Meetings magazine’s 2009 Pinnacle Award. Both distinctions were based on meeting planners’ identification of the Chattanooga CVB as a leader in the meetings and convention industry for hospitality excellence.
Tom Negri, Managing Director at Loews
Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel, presents a
donation on behalf of GNHA to Joel
Sullivan of the American Red Cross
for flood relief.
Compassion Shines Bright at Nashville Hospitality Event
The Greater Nashville Hospitality Association (GNHA) showcased their 2010 Stars of the Industry Awards on May 20th during an evening banquet at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. In addition to the presentation of awards and scholarships, GNHA presented checks, totaling more than $25,000, to the American Red Cross for flood relief.
Photo Caption: Tom Negri, Managing Director at Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel, presents a donation on behalf of GNHA to Joel Sullivan of the American Red Cross for flood relief.
“One-of-a Kind” State Park
Warrior’s Path State Park in Kingsport now has the first ADA compliant tree house in a U.S. state park. The Anderson Tree House, built in connection with the park’s Darrell’s Dream Boundless Playground and its Braille Trail, provides children the opportunity to play among the treetops, including those with impaired sight or mobility. A winding walkway that can be navigated by a wheelchair leads to the top, where participants enjoy a close-up view of birds and other critters in the trees or other areas of the park thru tree house binoculars. Darrell’s Dream Boundless Playground, a public-private partnership, first opened two years ago and attracts thousands of visitors to Warriors’ Path State Park.
Wilson County Launches New Campaign
Area celebrities, dignitaries and school representatives met in Lebanon on May 11 to launch a new regional marketing campaign, ‘Wilson County: The Place to Be!’ The initiative will promote the county as a premier destination for living, working, learning and visiting. Also at the event were special presentations from two local school systems, collectively unveiling plans for a new high school and a new middle school.
Special guests Gretchen Wilson, Lorrie Morgan, Tracy Lawrence, Lisa Patton and Mike Jones – all Wilson County residents – spoke about the hometown qualities and atmosphere that have made them feel at home in this area. The program’s new logo and forthcoming Web address were introduced as well.
Memphis Tourism Parade
Memphis Tourism Week
The Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau celebrated National Travel and Tourism Week May 8th thru the 16th with multiple activities that focused on the theme, “The Faces of Memphis Tourism.” The main event was an hour-long parade that made its way from the Orpheum Theatre to Government Plaza on Main Street. Other events included the ceremonial march of the Peabody Ducks at the historic Peabody Hotel. Memphis Mayor AC Wharton was the honorary Duck Master for the day.
Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award Winners Announced
Two Tennessee tourism partners were among the 13 recipients of the 2010 Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award, sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
EXCELLENCE IN PARKS AND RECREATION: A Sustainable Bonnaroo The four-day music and arts festival in Manchester attracts 80,000 people. Superfly Productions and A.C. Entertainment, producers of Bonnaroo, successfully diverted 33% of the waste produced by the festival (by weight) from landfills during the 2009 event. Other sustainable actions included providing re-usable water bottles for attendees to refill with free filtered water and retiring 900 metric tons of carbon dioxide, accounting for and offsetting all emissions generated from the festival.
EXCELLENCE IN POLLUTION PREVENTION: Chattanooga Green Lodging Certification Program
The program encourages hotels, bed and breakfasts and other lodging facilities and restaurants to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint, while enhancing the overall sustainability of their operations. The program provides guidance and resources that will greatly reduce impact by using proven techniques to reduce waste and, in many circumstances, save money. Chattanooga Green Lodging program has been recognized as a national model for sustainable tourism planning and is internationally recognized by Green Globe.
Quote of the Month:
The first law of success...is concentration: to bend all the energies toone point, and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right nor the left.
Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You