Yea! Summer is finally here! School years are ending, and tourists from around the country – and the globe – are starting to fill this beautiful state from the Mighty Mississippi to the majestic Smoky Mountains. Based on industry reports for the Memorial Day weekend travel, it looks like a red hot summer for Tennessee tourism in more ways than one!
The last three months have seen a whirlwind of activity here at the department as we partnered with VML, our new marketing agency, on the “One Minute Vacation” spring co-op and began development of a new branding campaign. Many of you have seen our crews filming in your area or worked directly with our team this spring as we shot branded content stories and footage for future television commercials.
Crisscrossing the entire state, we’ve captured inspiring scenes of authentic Tennessee, including our music, history, natural beauty, outdoor adventure, people, food and more. We’ve wrapped our ‘shoot’ in West Tennessee, and are now in the other two grand divisions. In fact, from May 28 through June 14, we will have three production crews filming in more than 45 locations in middle and East Tennessee. It’s a lot of long hours and hard work, but this gorgeous HD footage will be used in dozens of ways over the next several years.
On June 10, the department - along with the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Virginia Tourism Corporation - will host a news conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for the historic announcement of ”Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited.” This special recording project is part of the August opening of the new museum in Bristol.
In 1927, Ralph Peer recorded the magical sessions that shaped the future of country music and produced pioneers of the genre. The news conference will feature two-time Grammy winning producer Carl Jackson, first-ever song releases, behind-the-scenes footage of the recordings, and a live performance by special guest, Marty Stuart. We are very excited about a special contest announcement that pays tribute to Ralph Peer and the historic Bristol Sessions. Stay tuned for the big news!
The Grand Opening of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is just one of many this summer. Others include Gatlinburg’s Rocky Top Sports World, an 80-acre state-of-the-art indoor/outdoor sports complex, and Prichard’s Distillery’s newest location at Fontanel Mansion, Hotel and Resort just outside of Nashville.
Summer is all about great music in Tennessee – actually, it’s ALWAYS about great music in Tennessee - from the CMA Music Festival to Bonnaroo – and if you’re heading west between June 6 and August 23, be sure to stop by Union City and check out the all-star concerts on The Great Lawn at Discovery Park of America. Charlie Daniels, Travis Tritt, Survivor and Starship are featured artists of this brand new summer concert series – quite an impressive inaugural line-up!
I had the honor of meeting with our wonderful Welcome Center regional managers earlier today, and all of them expressed their excitement over the huge crowds they have already seen this year. I truly believe we are in for one fantastic tourism season, and I wish each of you a safe and spectacularly successful summer!
One-Minute Vacation Spring Co-op
In the craziness of life, summer seems to come and go in the blink of an eye. And it’s easy to forget the magic of a summer vacation. TDTD decided to tease people with what their Tennessee summer vacation could be like – in one minute. The marketing department rolled out the One-Minute Vacation Spring Co-op featuring partners in one-minute Tennessee vacation videos including an animated map showing viewers how easy it is to take a trip to Tennessee. Check out the videos on summer.tnvacation.com.
Twenty-four partners participated, giving TDTD the ability to create compelling road trip ideas throughout the state. Digital media placements were launched through two networks (June Group and Spongecell), which include sites like Huffington Post, Bravo, USA Today, Kayak, Lonely Planet, Washington Post, and many others. The campaign rolled out the end of April and is being featured in 15 markets including Atlanta, Chicago, DC, Dallas and Birmingham, and will remain in market until the end of June. The department’s investment was $500,000, with 24 partners investing a total of $130,000.
Initial Results to-date:
- First month Vacation Guide Downloads from the campaign – 3,504
- Over 4,000 visits to summer.tnvacation.com
- On average users spend over 3 minutes on summer.tnvacation.com
The numbers above are great but the campaign is focused on engagement and time with the videos via the banners. Here are the engagement rates from the two vendors, Spongecell and June Group.
Total time spent watching the units (in hours) — These are great! — People are viewing the content, which helps tell us it is relevant and impactful.
-300 x 600: 356:19:10
-Added Value Mobile: 00:51:05
Overall, we’ve received 838 total video view hours, for just the Spongecell portion of the campaign! Great to know we are getting LOTS of eyeballs on these spots.
In total video views the campaign has reached 195,892 eyeballs, with 13,310 video completions. At this point, the expandable ads and the mobile are performing great with completion rates well above the industry average (28%).
To provide our completion rates for June Group, we are at 67% completed videos, on a :60 spot, which is tremendous. These users are definitely interested in our video. We are also outperforming the industry average of 64% completion rates within their platform.
Look for complete campaign results in the July Rhythm & News.
Save the Date for the 2014 Governor’s Conference on Tourism
The 2014 Governor’s Conference on Tourism will be held Oct. 8-10, 2014 in Knoxville.
This year’s conference promises an inspiring group of keynote and seminar speakers, in addition to Commissioner Susan Whitaker’s State of the Industry address. Gov. Haslam has been invited to speak at Friday’s closing luncheon.
Stay tuned for more exciting details in July’s Rhythm & News.
Tourism Week Final Recap
Although summer is not officially here, the vacation season has certainly arrived in Tennessee. During the period of May 3 -11, communities and attractions across the state commemorated National Travel and Tourism Week with special events, appearances at tourism destinations, contests, awards and more. We want to share a few stories and show a few images that partners forwarded our office following their efforts:
Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker was invited to attend a breakfast gathering in Maryville and deliver a proclamation from Governor Haslam, recognizing May 3-11 as 2014 Tennessee Tourism Week. A senate proclamation was also delivered from Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, speaker of the Senate, at the request of and in conjunction with Senator Doug Overbey. Meanwhile, local elected officials declared May 5 as Blount County Tourism Day.
The Memphis CVB and their partners focused on the Travel Effect of unused vacation days and the social and economic effects that follow as a result. Enjoy this YouTube video.
Knoxville reopened their observation deck on the fourth floor of the iconic Sunsphere on May 6th. In addition to the panoramic views of the downtown, the improvements provide better experience for tourists in the area, with new plasma TVs, updated kiosks with visitor information, removable images of experiences available in Knoxville, plus a pictorial history of the the 1982 World’s Fair. The Sunsphere was built for the 1982 Worlds Fair.
The Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council sponsored their 30th Annual Celebration of Tourism Week by honoring Great Smoky Mountains National Park Employee of the Year and the Tourist of the Day. The event featured participation by the park, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Sevier County, plus Cosby and Townsend which are outside of Sevier County.
Numerous tourism organizations and professionals were also recognized for their achievements and contributions to the industry. A few of those are noted in the Noteworthy section of this month’s newsletter. The Greeneville Tourism Department reached out to the recipients of their annual Presidential Pioneer in Hospitality Awards by going directly to their business and surprising them with a gift and a plaque.
Here is a sample of activity at our numerous Welcome Centers across the state:
Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event Announced
The 2014 Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event, “The Last Campaign in Tennessee,” will be held November 13-16, in historic Franklin, Tenn. The commemoration marks the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Battle of Franklin, and will include educational seminars, panel discussions, special tours of sites in and around Franklin and a battle reenactment.
Tennessee State Historian Dr. Carroll Van West will officiate the Opening Ceremony on Thurs., Nov. 14. Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, will offer opening remarks. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
Other free sesquicentennial events include:
· “Teaching with Primary Sources,” a Nov. 13 workshop open to K-12 educators.
· “Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee,” Nov. 13-14.
· “The Last Campaign in Tennessee,” a Nov. 14 panel discussion featuring noted historians and authors.
In addition to the Signature Event, special ticketed events sponsored by Franklin 150 include “A Special Evening with Alison Brown & Friends,” at The Franklin Theatre on Friday, Nov. 14, and the “150th Battle of Franklin Re-enactment,” featuring more than 700 re-enactors,on the grounds of the Carnton Plantation on Sat., Nov. 15 and Sun., Nov. 16. Tickets and pricing informationare available online at www.tncivilwar150.com.
The 2014 Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Signature Event is jointly sponsored by the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Tennessee Historical Society, Franklin 150 and the Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways
The Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways initiative continues to build momentum through trail showcases. All seven counties were represented at the Screaming Eagle Trail Showcase held May 1 at Montgomery Bell State Park. This special event helped to raise awareness about the Screaming Eagle Trail to tourism and economic development partners, business leaders, elected officials and the general public. The event showcased the travel opportunities available through the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways initiative and the adventures waiting in Tennessees award-winning State Parks.
A special thanks to Jessica Goldberg, Screaming Eagle Trail leader, Karin Davis, Rhonda Adams and to all the trail partners who participated in the showcase. Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill and the Tennessee State Parks staff delivered excellent remarks and a top quality presentation of event set-up, sound and catering.
This first showcase was attended by more than 100 people including elected officials, chambers, economic development, highway and police departments, agritourism businesses, tourism partners, points of interest and nearby attractions along the trail as well as visitors staying at Montgomery Bell State Park.
Anne Pope, executive director of the Tennessee Arts Commission, attended with three of her staff. After the event Anne commented onthe importance ofthesetrail events to showcase the quality of music, arts and crafts available in communities across our state. She extended a special thanks to TDTD and TDEC for hosting the event.
The showcase definitely "hit the mark" meeting our goal of community outreach and trail education by showcasing the trail and connecting partners in all seven counties. Throughout the day comments were made such as, "I did not know we had adventure skydiving.” Or “The parks offer interpretive and living history programs?” and “Who would have thought 20,000 people attend the Irish Festival held in Houston County.”
In addition, attendees participated in the State Park cabin tours at the end of the showcase.
The showcase was definitely about learning, sharing and realizing that through the Screaming Eagle Trail, these seven counties have an amazing tourism product to offer visitors. Overall, attendees walked away excited about the unique travel opportunities available on the Screaming Eagle Trail and the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways.
Stay tuned for the next DTTB Showcase event to be held at a State Park near you.
2014 TN Sampler Dates: Week of Sept. 15
As many of you know,TDTD postponedthe annual Tennessee Sampler PR and Sales Mission with the purpose of maximizing the roll-out of Tennessees new brankding campaign. We are thrilled to announce Tennessee Sampler 2014 is set for the week of Sept. 15, 2014 ... hold the dates. Location(s), registration, and other details will be made available in the near future, but we wanted to be sure the dates are announced now, to facilitate scheduling and budgeting arrangements for those interested in participating.TDTD will be launching the new, exciting marketing campaign in July!
More Sales News
The Department’s sales efforts will start June with attendance at the annual Travel Alliance Partners “TAP Dance” conference, being held in Reno, Nevada from June 1 – 5, 2014. As in past years, pods of supplier teams meet with each of 31 TAP tour operators for scheduled appointments to promote and increase business and tours to the supplier regions. This year, Tennessee will be represented by seven destinations and attractions, including Chattanooga CVB, Clarksville CVB, Graceland, Grand Ole Opry Entertainment Group, Dolly Parton’s Dinner Attractions, and the Grand Majestic Theater.
Coming to a region near you. Last month, new sales manager, LouAnna Smith was able to visit the beautiful area of Pigeon Forge for a day filled with site visits. Her day began with the ever-popular Wonderworks, experiencing a 5.3 magnitude earthquake at the Earthquake Café, then after the tour, catching a glimpse of the brand new Hard Rock Café – Pigeon Forge. Additional sites she was able to squeeze into the afternoon included climbing aboard the Titanic for “a chilling and inspiring tour”, where she was “moved to tears by the end of the tour [and] left speechless!; a visit to Timberwood Grill, located within the Island of Pigeon Forge; a jaw-dropping ride on the Smoky Mountain Wheel with a breathtaking view of the Smoky Mountains, and a quick tour around Dollywood. The Department thanks the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism and all the partners who assisted with her spectacular day of site visits. We look forward to her visiting and experiencing other Tennessee destinations in the near future, and appreciate all the partners who help make the opportunities possible, as she gains additional knowledge about many of the state’s treasures we have to promote.
<p><strong>Facebook Offers Travel the Best ROI</strong></p>
<p>Over the past months, both marketers and travel brands<a href="http://thinkdigital.travel/?p=3525">raised concerns and voiced skepticism</a>towards the perceived value and usefulness of social mediain tourism marketing. Nevertheless, social media budgets in travel are continuously increasing, despite marketers’ concerns (<a href="http://skift.com/?p=129185" target="_blank">Skift</a>). Following one of the latest<a href="http://bit.ly/1in4Cqy" target="_blank">eMarketer reports</a>,paid social media expenditure in the US accounts for 5% to 10% of most travel companies’ digital budgets.</p>
<p>SOCIAL MEDIA MARKTING</p>
<p>The rise in social media budgets, despite the growing concerns about the viability of social, reflects the realization of travel marketers that it is important to meet the customers where they are online. Even if this means investing on ad spend in on social media sites. At the same time, the increase in ad spending is paralleled by an increase in sharing branded travel content from major social media platforms. Following research of the social sharing company<a href="http://www.gigya.com" target="_blank">Gigya</a>in the last quarter of 2013, nearly 2 in 3 users shared branded travel content on Facebook, 17 percent shared content on Pinterest and 14 percent shared content on Twitter.</p>
<p>COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT IS KEY</p>
<p>However, it is not sufficient for travel brands to invest in social media ad spending to successfully promote content. Sharing, engagement and therefore ultimately impressions, are depended on investing in suitable staff that can drive those interactions. In fact, for a travel brand to benefit from paid social, it needs to build a strong and engaging community first. Only then, paid social media can help increasing a brand’s awareness.</p>
<p>FACEBOOK OUTPERFORMS COMPETITORS</p>
<p>While raising awareness is all good, quantifying the connection between social or mobile spend and an actual purchase remains difficult. This is a clear disadvantage of paid social media over other, more traditional forms of digital marketing, such as pay-per-click. However, if travel brands decide to engage in paid social media, Facebook is still their safest bet, according to the Skift report. The report asked US ad buyers for the network with the highest return on invest and Facebook (60%) outshines the major competitors LinkedIn (25%), Google+ (10%) and Twitter (5%) by far.</p>