While writing this message in my office, I’m looking out on a beautiful spring afternoon in downtown Nashville and thinking about the locations I’ve visited around the state in April. We are blessed to not only live and work in this extraordinary state, but also be part of bringing visitors to experience a one-of-a-kind Tennessee vacation.
This has truly been a unique and inspirational time at the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. Our office is buzzing with excitement as we work with our new marketing agency, VML, to develop the new brand campaign.
The tourism industry wouldn’t be experiencing our record success without the continued support of Governor Bill Haslam and the General Assembly. I want to thank the governor and each assembly member for appropriating an additional $4 million in non-recurring budget dollars for our Tourism Task Force Marketing Fund.
The department had the opportunity to thank Governor Haslam in person during a visit on April 24 to our office to review our plans and strategic roadmap for the future. It was a great meeting, where we shared advertising campaign results, new creative concepts and the first VML project – The One-Minute Vacation, our 2014 Spring Marketing Co-Op. The One-Minute Vacation, featuring 24 partners, is an online digital campaign featuring video from three partners in each vacation. The campaign is geo- and demo-targeted by region based on the partners.
May 7 is Tennessee Tourism Day, and we’ll be celebrating in our Welcome Centers May 3 – 11 with special promotions and events. Tennessee Tourism Day is part of U.S. Travel’s National Travel & Tourism Week created to educate American residents on the importance of tourism to the local, state and national economy.
April was a busy month as Memphis and Nashville made global headlines with the expansion openings of two iconic Tennessee attractions.
The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel unveiled its $27.5 million expansion on April 5, which transformed the museum with new interactive, state-of-the-art exhibits and updated existing displays, including 260 artifacts and more than 40 new films and mini-documentaries. You won’t want to miss this very moving and captivating museum on your next visit to Memphis.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum more than doubled its size with the official opening of its expanded spaces April 15. The expansion includes 11,000 square feet of new gallery space, the Taylor Swift Education Center, additional retail stores, a new home for Hatch Show Print and breath-taking event spaces, including the main event hall with a gorgeous view of the Nashville skyline.
Governor Haslam attended events for both openings and highlighted the state’s tourism initiatives during his speech in Nashville.
The Tennessee Civil War Trail continues to expand and attract visitors from all over to explore and experience the history and heritage that is uniquely Tennessee. We now have 294 historic markers along the trail and 99 applications that are in various stages of the review and approval process. The newest markers will be installed in June. I want to send a very special thank you to our Civil War Trails team for growing this program into a state treasure, as well as Dr. Carroll Van West and his team for preparing the content and historic images for the applications.
The department could not have developed and grown the Civil War Trail without the support and partnership of the Departments of Transportation and Environment and Conservation. Many thanks to Commissioners John Schroer and Bob Martineau as well as Deputy Commissioner of State Parks, Brock Hill, for helping us create such a successful program for rural economic development.
Before I close, I want to put the spotlight on Franklin, which was voted by readers of Garden & Gun magazine as the 2014 Greatest Southern Town in their 64-city ‘March Madness’ contest, besting Savannah, Georgia, in the finals. The historic town also was featured in the April issue of Delta Airlines Sky magazine as one of 15 “Must Hit” destinations of 2014, in the company of such cities as Stockholm, London, Shanghai and Kyoto. If you haven’t experienced Franklin’s unique charm for yourself, head on over for a springtime visit!
The honors for Tennessee cities and communities keep rolling in, and that is great news for all of us. Congratulations to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens in Nashville, just named as one of America’s 10 Best Public Gardens as reported in this past weekend’s USA Weekend Magazine.
Of course, I could add several other Tennessee garden spots to that list – it’s just beautiful out there right now, from one end of the state to the other. Take some time to get out and enjoy it – and say hello to our visitors as they discover what we’ve known all along: it just doesn’t get any better than this!
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Tourism Week in Tennessee is Music to Our Ears
National Travel and Tourism Week is May 3-11 and May 7 has been declared Tennessee Tourism Day. Once again, industry professionals are working together to showcase the positive effects of tourism on individuals, businesses and the state’s economy. Tourism contributes $16.2 billion in economic impact to the state and employs more than 146,000 people.
This year, it is estimated that Tennessee Welcome Centers will host visits and displays from approximately 250 destinations, attractions, lodging, food and shopping partners. Adding even more fun for the visitors are musicians, artisans, celebrity impersonators, re-enactors, attraction mascots and “creatures of the wild.” Rhonda Adams (Dickson County), Karin Davis (Humphreys County) and Beth Lyell (Loretta Lynns granddaughter) will spend a day at the Smith County Welcome Center. Together they will be playing Loretta’s music, while sharing a smile and stories!
In the Tri-Cities, Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City DMOs cater food to their nearby welcome centers and assist with traveler information while the staff enjoys lunch.
All 13 welcome centers will host partners during National Travel and Tourism Week.
In the local communities, from the Mississippi River to the Great Smoky Mountains, elected officials, community organizations and tourism professionals are creating events to spotlight tourism.
Memphis is having an outdoor event at Court Square to highlight all the attractions in the area and drive home the national theme "Travel Effects". There will be food trucks, music and lots of fun. The Metro Memphis Attractions Association will also host Shelby County legislators and local elected officials at a Memphis Redbirds game.
May 5-9 Hardin County is conducting a social media giveaway of items donated by local businesses. You will find them on Facebook at Tour Hardin County and on Twitter and Instagram @hardincountytn. Meanwhile, Polk County is also asking tourism members to donate items to be given away to guests at their own visitor center. Crossville-Cumberland County and Monroe County will greet their visitors with refreshments too.
Get ready! On May 9 there is a "Tourism Rocks Open House” at the I-40 rest area at mile marker 73. Mary Beth Hopper and the Southwest Tennessee Tourism Association will be there to answer questions and encourage guests to spend the weekend in the area.
In Morristown-Hamblen County, the locals are encouraged to “Be a Tourist in Your Own Community.” Points of interests include Crockett Tavern Museum, General Longstreet Headquarters Museum, Cherokee Lake, Panther Creek State Park, festivals, art classes and more.
There is a new award this year in Nashville. It is the E.W. “Bud” Wendell Award, presented by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. during Nashville’s 3rd Annual National Tourism Week Hospitality Industry Celebration. Wendell, who in 1991 was named president and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment, also played a leading role in Gaylord’s launch of The Nashville Network and its acquisition of Country Music Television. The luncheon will also include remarks from special guest Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA.
At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council (Sevier County DMOs) invites other communities surrounding GSMNP for the 30thAnnual Celebration of Tourism Week. The event honors Great Smoky Mountains National ParkEmployee of the Year and Tourist Family of the Day.
The Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association will honor their “Stars of the Industry” at a luncheon with the ninth annual Pauly Awards, named after Paul Sherbakoff. Mr. Sherbakoff inspired the University of Tennessee’s first hospitality training classes, which began in 1973 in the Home Economics Department.
But what about the housekeeping staff? Brenda Whitson, executive director of the Johnson City CVB reminds us that they are truly the STARS of the industry. Her team takes a pizza lunch, drinks and dessert to each of the lodging properties. Meanwhile, the Tourism Departmentof Greene County Partnership will travel to five businesses in the Greeneville area to honor front-line employees with the annual “Presidential Pioneer in Hospitality Award.” Recognition goes beyond personnel in the lodging and attraction industry to include those showing exemplary service in food and retail businesses.
For the first time, the Claiborne County Tourism Commission will honor two people with the “Award of Excellence in Tourism Development". The first award honors a person in the community while the second award goes to a business group club or organization who has contributed most to tourism development in Claiborne County.
There are also National Travel and Tourism Week proclamations in such counties as Polk and Sullivan while the Johnson City Commission also commemorates the week of May 3-11.
This is just a sample of the way Tennesseans celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week. Year-round, the focus is on our guests who make Tennessee their destination for leisure and business.
West Tennessee Travel Writer FAM
The beat of West Tennessee’s drum is being felt by 18 travel journalists during TDTD’s West Tennessee FAM which started April 29 and concludes on May 4.
Some of the publications represented include AAA Living, Spirit Magazine, USA Today, Georgia Magazine, Bassin’ Magazine among others.
Three of the travel journalists are fishing Reelfoot Lake, Kentucky Lake and Pickwick Landing State Park. The other journalists are experiencing an eclectic blend of popular, world-class attractions like Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Discovery Park of America, Shiloh National Military Park and the National Civil Rights Museum with small town traditions like Trenton’s Teapot Collection, West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, and Covington’s Historic Square.
The trip will end with a grand send-off at Casey Jones Village which will include the Providence House, the newest addition to Casey Jones Village.
Tennessee travel writer FAMS during FY12-13 saw a total circulation of 145,730,320 and are a key component to TDTD’s national PR efforts.
Civil War Update
CIVIL WAR EXHIBIT RECENTLY DEDICATED IN DYERSBURG WELCOME CENTER
The permanent Civil War exhibit was recently dedicated at the Dyersburg Welcome Center. The April event was attended by state and local officials and guests from the local community. Program participants included Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel, Tennessee House of Representatives, Dr. Carroll Van West, Tennessee State Historian, Co-Chair, TN Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, Dyer County Mayor Richard Hill, and Dyersburg Mayor John Holden.
The purpose of the Civil War exhibits, installed in all of Tennessee’s Welcome Centers, is to educate visitors and Tennesseans as to the important role Tennessee played in the Civil War.
Each Tennessee Civil War Exhibit features an overview of Tennessee’s role in the Civil War, as well as the regional impact of the Civil War and will also promote rural tourism development through the Tennessee Civil War Trail and Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways programs.
This Civil War exhibit project was made possible through a partnership with Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration,
Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, MTSU Center for Historic Preservation, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area,
and the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and was funded by the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration, State Capital Commission.
For more information on the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial occurring Nov. 13-14, 2014 in Franklin, visit www.tncivilwar150.com.
FRANKLIN’S EASTERN FLANK BATTLEFIELD PARK DEDICATION WAS HELD IN APRIL
Nearly a decade after Civil War preservationists rallied to acquire a former golf course on the Eastern Flank of the Battle of Franklin, the community, including state and local officials, dedicated its first fully interpreted battlefield park.
The Loop Road that was completed last year for public access to the 110-acre park has now been enhanced by 20 interpretive signs and three kiosks that tell the story of what happened there in 1864, thanks to a $240,000 grant from the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. Local historians Thomas Flagel, Eric Jacobson and Rick Warwick collaborated to research and present compelling facts about the battle and its aftermath through the interpretive signage.
“The preservation effort in Franklin has attracted so much state and national support because it’s very rare to see a community come together like this to save its history,” said Dr. Carroll Van West, state historian and director of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. “The level of momentum leading up the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Franklin is incredible, and we are pleased to be a part of it.”
The non-profit organization Franklin’s Charge formed in 2004, when the former Country Club of Franklin golf course was threatened by development. Representing Civil War preservation with one voice, the group raised nearly $7 million to acquire the property. Organizations including the American Battlefield Protection Program, the Civil War Trust and several private donors made the purchase possible, and the property was given to the City of Franklin for use as a park. Since then, the City Parks department has done extensive work to the site, enhancing it for the benefit of citizens and the thousands of visitors who come each year to learn more about Franklin’s Civil War history.
The Eastern Flank Battlefield Park is located at 1368 Eastern Flank Circle in Franklin, off of Lewisburg Pike and adjacent to Carnton Plantation.
For more information on events related to the Sesquicentennial, please visit www.franklin150.com.
IPW, NASC and ABA Reminder from Sales Team
For the recently concluded IPW convention held in Chicago, the Department, along with booth partners Chattanooga CVB and Sevierville CVB, had 61 appointments with international tour operators on the tradeshow floor, including an additional three marketing and nine meetings with journalists. The Department’s PR team conducted a separate series of 35 meetings with journalists, (editors, freelancer travel writers, publishers) during IPW’s media marketplace. Tennessee’s floor presence at IPW included partners from See Pigeon Forge Receptive Services, Memphis CVB, Graceland, and the Nashville CVC.
Of note, one international tour operator, Hotelplan Suisse, with help from Tennessee Tourism, especially Rachel Kisber-Obermeier, and several CVB partners, is organizing a Swiss tour operator FAM in Tennessee this month. It will be one of the largest FAMS from the German-speaking countries, as the operator is planning to train 23 of their best travel agents to better promote their Deep South itinerary, which has been gaining interest and bookings recently.The group will overnight in Chattanooga, Pigeon Forge, Nashville and Memphis, with stopovers in Lynchburg and Jackson.
At NASC’s Symposium in Oklahoma City, Play Tennessee conducted 33 appointments during the conference, meeting with Events Rights Holders who are looking for destinations and venues to host their sports events.Other Tennessee partners attending the show included Chattanooga, Cookeville, Kingsport, Knoxville, Memphis, Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg, Rutherford County, and Wilderness at the Smokies in Sevierville.
As a final reminder for Tennessee partners, nominations for the ABA 2015 Top 100 Events in North America are due May 7th. This annual publication is a listing of the top events/festivals in North America, which bring group tours to your area.
If you are nominating an event through ABA, please let the Department know as soon as possible, and email Bennjin Lao at Bennjin.Lao@tn.gov, as we will review and consider nominating as well, to help gain additional exposure for the event in the nomination process. For additional information, please visit www.buses.org/top100. For instructions, please click here.
<p><strong>Survey Reveals Top Travel Trends for 2014 </strong></p>
<p>THE WOODLANDS (Houston), Texas</p>
<p>Benchmark Hospitality International, a leading U.S.-based hospitality management company, has unveiled the "Top Ten Travel Trends for 2014" as observed through a survey of the company’s extensive database of professional travel agents.</p>
<p>In a Benchmark-commissioned study, over 20,000 travel professionals were provided a comprehensive survey on consumer and business travel in 2014, for review and submission to an independent market research firm for compilation and analysis.</p>
<p>“The objective for this research study of travel professionals was to gain insights into current and anticipated travel trends," said Ted Davis, chief marketing and sales officer for Benchmark Hospitality International. "We greatly value our partnerships with travel professionals and take a sincere interest in understanding their needs and how we can better serve them."</p>
<p><strong>Trend #1: The Travel Industry is Poised for Strong Growth!</strong></p>
<p>Eight out of 10 travel agents surveyed are highly upbeat about industry growth through 2014 and beyond. Over half are projecting “strong growth.”</p>
<p><strong>Trend #2: Leisure Travel Leads The Way</strong></p>
<p>Nearly 75 percent of growth in travel is leisure related, with half of this growth coming from the luxury segment. It’s travel at a personal cost, however. A quarter of the travel professionals felt that the line of demarcation between business and personal travel is further blurring, with many executives bringing work with them on family and romantic vacations -- aided in large part by advances in communications technology.</p>
<p><strong>Trend #3: The Specter of Direct Bookings</strong></p>
<p>What keeps travel agents up at night? It’s not terrorism affecting travel, or elevated costs or even OTA competition. It is customers increasingly bypassing the agents and booking directly. TAs see this as the greatest potential negative effect on their business in 2014.</p>
<p><strong>Trend #4: Hit the Beach, See the World</strong></p>
<p>After six years of the greatest recession in living memory, travelers are ready to pack their bags, drop in a beach towel, and see the world. TAs are seeing strong expenditures in domestic beach-related travel – nearly 50 percent and with particular emphasis on Hawaii, the south and southwest, which following the winter of 2013-2014 may not be a surprise.</p>
<p>Caught up on their tan, leisure travelers are boarding planes and heading abroad with the remaining 50 percent trekking across the Atlantic to Europe. Those who still need more sun are flying south to the Caribbean or on to South America.</p>
<p><strong>Trend #5: Who is Spending? It’s the Boomers by Far</strong></p>
<p>Nearly 60 percent of travel agent bookings last year were from this group of consumers, followed by Seniors and GenXers both coming in at about 15 percent of bookings. The much focused-on Millennials account for less than 9 percent of travel expenditures for the year.</p>
<p>Boomers may be spending, but they still demand value for the dollar. Nearly 50 percent of travel professionals view rate as the critical factor in the consumer travel decision process.</p>
<p><strong>Trend #6: Online Travel Reviews and Their Effect</strong></p>
<p>It’s huge, according to TAs, and growing. An overwhelming number -- 80 percent -- feel we’ve only seen the beginning of this consumer phenomenon. And over 50 percent of the travel agents surveyed use these online reviews in determining booking decisions for their customers. Hoteliers and airlines take note!</p>
<p><strong>Trend #7: Most Important Features at Hotels & Resorts</strong></p>
<p>Well, yes, location is #1 for apparent reasons. But #2 isn’t free parking, or the availability of spa services, or numerous other possible traveler concerns. It’s free Internet, and properties that continue to charge for this service should take note that this is deemed more important for travelers than the number of stars or diamonds a property achieves. Free Internet access is seen as a traveler’s right!</p>
<p><strong>Trend #8: Hotel Websites Sell</strong></p>
<p>An attractive, appealing and user-friendly website with a direct booking option generates reservations. Maybe not a surprise to most, but what is interesting is that travel agents use this method 34 percent of the time for making reservations (GDS is 38 percent of TA bookings). You can toss your fax machine, though; it’s used for bookings only 1 percent of the time according to the study.</p>
<p><strong>Trend #9: This Changes Everything!</strong></p>
<p>Well over half of the travel agents responding felt a paradigm shift occurred when the world went mobile. With around the clock accessibility, pop-up travel deals, immediate rate checks and even securing directions on your phone en route to a destination has given travelers, for the first time, the world at their fingertips no matter where they are on the globe.</p>
<p>Hotels and resorts without mobile sites are left in the dust. A few key words from the TAs: Mobile sites should be relevant, brief, readable, and formatted for ease of use.</p>
<p><strong>Trend #10: Advice to the Hotel Industry from Travel Agents</strong></p>
<p>Ok, maybe not officially a trend, but this is increasingly top of mind with travel professionals and they wanted to share these words of advice with hoteliers: Keep your rooms and water glasses clean. Replace worn carpet. Invite us over -- FAM trips are back and there’s no better way for us to meet you and experience your property.</p>
<p>Never forget the importance of customer service, ever! Partner with us for a win-win. We understand what “incidental revenue” means, but please don’t nickel and dime our customers. Your websites are beautiful, but we urge you to have your vital information just one click away. Always deliver value. And finally, we’ve said it before and we’re saying it again – travelers want Internet access to be FREE!</p>
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