There’s just something about autumn in Tennessee. It’s not only the breathtaking colors of the leaves, which have put a fall trip here on so many people’s bucket lists, but it’s also because we have some of the best fall festivals in the world. Combine great Tennessee music with delicious locally grown foods that are regularly featured in popular eateries across the state (some across the country – Benton’s bacon!) and you have a recipe for one wonderful vacation.
People have obviously noticed. Our Jellico Welcome Center on I-75 reports that they have gone through a record number of Vacation Guides in the past month as thousands and thousands of visitors have made their way into Tennessee on fall excursions. Two things are bound to happen: they won’t be disappointed and they will be back, hopefully with a caravan of friends!
More visitors, staying longer, spending more…you’ve heard me talk about our mission many times. It’s how the tour and travel industry grows the Tennessee economy across the state. In order to maximize every dollar that is given to the Department, we have developed strong relationships with other state agencies, looking for shared goals and opportunities.
Strategic partnerships with the Departments of Transportation, Environment and Conservation (State Parks), Agriculture, and Economic and Community Development have enabled us to plan, fund and execute several of our most successful programs including the Discover TN Trails & Byways and the Tennessee Civil War Trail.
Last month, Dr. Carroll Van West, Director of the Tennessee National Civil War Heritage Area and my Sesquicentennial Commission Co-Chair, joined me and several local dignitaries from Franklin, Grundy and Marion Counties, in dedicating a three-county gateway Civil War Trail marker in Monteagle. This installation marks No. 263 on Tennessee’s Civil War Trail.
In October, I was asked to address the 2012 ECD Governor’s Conference on the topic “Tourism as an Economic Game Changer in Tennessee.” I invited a panel of tourism experts from across the state to share how tourism has been that game changer in their destinations. They were absolutely terrific, each giving a very unique perspective on what was making it ‘work’ so successfully. My personal thanks to Mona Herring, VP of the Rutherford County CVB, Dave Santucci, VP of marketing for the Chattanooga CVB, and Diana Threadgill, President of the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee, for doing such an outstanding job.
International travel is a segment of our industry gaining momentum, due in large part to the Travel Promotion Act and the launch of Brand USA to market the U.S. internationally. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, the U.S. is on pace for a record-setting year for inbound tourism spending. Tennessee’s international growth is well-above 2011’s national average - 14.6 percent vs. 12.2 percent increase nationally.
Travel South U.S.A., the Atlanta-based marketing organization representing 11 Southern states, is taking advantage of the rising tide of interest and opportunity by hosting its first Travel South International Showcase Nov. 26-29 in Atlanta.
To date, more than 70 international operators and receptive operators have registered to attend. Fourteen delegates from Tennessee will be there, conducting meetings as well as participating in a special Tennessee-sponsored dinner hosting 15 tour operators. After the showcase, TDTD is hosting two post-event FAM tours to Chattanooga and Nashville, and the Smoky Mountains.
Increasing our inbound international travel is truly important, but domestic travel remains Tennessee’s number one growth opportunity. In mid-October more than a dozen national and regional travel writers toured Memphis, Jackson and the surrounding region, as Tourist Development’s PR team, along with local partners, hosted a West TN familiarization (FAM) tour. On November 6-10, our second fall FAM takes place in Tennessee’s beautiful Smoky Mountains region with a group of 14 writers. The first hand stories these writers share online and in publications across the country provide a powerful, persuasive endorsement of our tourism destinations. That produces more visitors, staying longer, spending more…it’s a beautiful thing.
Tennessee is about to see the light, holiday-style! Winterfest in the Smokies gets an early start with 3 special lighting ceremonies taking place the first week of November. Gaylord Opryland, Graceland and Bristol Motor Speedway’s “Speedway in Lights” all flip the switch November 16. Other special holiday celebrations are just around the corner…how many more shopping days???!
As we head toward Thanksgiving, let me take a moment to give thanks for being a part of the best tourism team in the world right here in Tennessee. Thank you for your continued good work and for keeping Tennessee top of mind for our special visiting guests. I appreciate you so much.
Special Thanksgiving blessings on you!
a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Industry Gears Up for 2012 Holiday Season
The holidays are almost here. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and the industry is gearing up for the 2012 season. Tennessee is abundant with holiday events and festivals, which are a great draw for tourists to the state. These festivities are true Tennessee – authentic, inviting, warm and welcoming. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development has a number of PR and marketing opportunities available to help spread the message during this busy season.
Holiday Round Up’s will be distributed weekly to media, as well as through the press room site and through social media outlets.
In addition to spreading the word via Facebook and Twitter, Tennessee’s new Pinterest page will have a Holiday Gift Guide inspiration board focusing on great gifts that can be found in Tennessee.
Tennessee TripTales, tourism’s blog, published several times a week, will focus on holiday happenings and events across the state including special seasonal previews from each region.
The Tennessee winter site themed Savor the Sounds of a Tennessee Winter, winter.tnvacation.com, will go live the week of Thanksgiving. While the site focuses on all things for winter it highlights holiday happenings.
Be sure to enter events and press releases to tnvacation.com via the vendor portal. http://www.tnvacation.com/industry/
Here are some highlights:
The 23rdSmoky Mountain Winterfest, a holiday tradition for many visitors who return year after year, will kick off in just a few days. Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville will be shining bright with holiday décor and lights, Nov. 5 - Feb. 28. Dollyood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas, with more than four million lights, gets underway Nov. 9.
Ruby Falls in Chattanooga celebrates the season with Ruby Red Christmas, each Friday and Saturday night during December.
The 29th year of Gaylord Opryland’s “A Country Christmas®” brings the 2012 edition of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular® starring The Rockettes®. NEW this year is Lorrie Morgans Enchanted Christmas Dinner & Show and Explore ICE!™ featuring DreamWorks Shrek the Halls.
Elvis Presley’s Graceland will officially kick off the holiday season Nov. 16 with 2012 American Idol star, Skylar Lane to officially “flip the switch” during the Graceland Annual Lighting Ceremony. Visitors can experience Christmas at Graceland, Nov. 16 – Jan. 8.
These events are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to happenings in Tennessee. From holiday parades and festivals to shopping extravaganzas and shows, Tennessee is ready to welcome our guests for the holidays.
New Creative Approach for the 2013 Tennessee Vacation Guide & Tennessee Highway Map
The photo shoot for the 2013 Tennessee Vacation Guide cover was held Oct. 17 at Fall Creek Falls State Park and features a family of four enjoying a beautiful, fall day in Tennessee. The image also features products promoting our major drivers, such as a guitar, kayak, fishing gear, and support for a major Tennessee partner, Volkswagen.
Each year, 500,000 copies of the guide are printed and distributed to our major markets domestically and internationally, as well as through our 14 Tennessee Welcome Centers. There is also an eGuide version, along with a new app in development for 2013.
On average, we have about 50,000 eGuide views, annually. The content from the guide also drives the content throughout tnvacation.com, and we receive over 4 million unique visits annually. Our primary call-to-action on all advertising – broadcast, print, digital – is “Get your FREE TENNESSEE VACATION GUIDE at tnvacation.com, or call 1-800-GO2-TENN.” The Vacation Guide images and content are also used across all of our social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and our blog, Tennessee TripTales.
During the photo shoot, we gathered rich media content available through a QR code on the cover. This includes interviews with the family about their favorite places in Tennessee, an interview with Park Ranger Stuart Carroll, as well as beautiful scenic footage. The goal is to provide a backstage view of the creative process to prospective travelers.
Also, in conjunction with TDOT, we design the cover and print 1.8 million copies of the Tennessee Highway Map. The Vacation Guide and map are often delivered or displayed together, so a cohesive look and feel is important and a best practice for many state DMOs.
The map will feature a spin-off shot from the Vacation Guide cover, which will showcase a Volkwagen Tiguan on a scenic, Tennessee State Park road.
The 2013 Tennessee Vacation Guide and Tennessee Highway Map will be available in January 2013.
Sales Team Attends OMCA and Prepares For Busy Trade Show Season
October kicked off a busy travel season for the Tennessee Sales Team. Tennessee had a solid showing at the annual Ontario Motor Coach Association Marketplace held in Buffalo, NY. TDTD had 24 scheduled appointments and several additional round table meetings, with mostly Canadian tour operators, to discuss opportunities for tours and coaches to Tennessee. Tennessee partners included representatives from Memphis, Clarksville, Nashville, and Pigeon Forge. During the annual OMCA awards event, TDTD and the Memphis CVB were presented plaques for 25-years as members of the organization.
Thank you to those who recently attended the 2012 Governor’s Conference on Economic & Community Development in Nashville. TDTD hosted a booth and handed out vacation guides, state maps, trails brochures and partner materials to attendees. In addition, the department hosted a booth at the Tennessee Economic Summit for Women held at the Nashville Airport Marriott.
The inaugural Travel South International Showcase will be held November 26 – 29 in Atlanta and already the show has exceeded expectations on international operator attendance, with over 75 registered for this boutique conference. Tennessee will have partners from all three regions of the state conducting meetings in a pod-style format. After the Showcase, Tennessee will help host two sold-out “Super postFAM tours” – one to Chattanooga and Nashville; the other to the Smokies region.
Coming soon! Please be on the lookout for updates on the Tennessee hosted dinners for the dine-around nights at ABA and NTA.
In anticipation of the upcoming national trade shows (ABA, NTA, Travel South), the Department will be updating our Group Sales Profile Sheet. For consideration, please submit any updated group tour offerings (with dates, when applicable) to the sales team. The best information is forecasting 12 to 18 months out. Please forward updates to JamieLynn.Thompson@tn.gov, by the deadline of November 30, 2012. Thank you!
West TN, Chattanooga and the Smokies Host Fall Travel Writer FAMS
Two state-sponsored fall travel writer FAMS are an important part of TDTD’s 2012 PR efforts. Solid partner participation, more than 30 participating journalists and Geiger and Associates meticulous attention to details, make these events some of Tennessee’s best opportunities for media coverage.
West Tennessee hosted 16 travel writers for the state-sponsored “River City to Country Roads” travel writer FAM held Oct. 15-19.
Participating journalists, including editors from AAA Journeys and AAA Home & Away, as well as writers representing Chicago Tribune, Pathfinders Travel Magazine, American Rider, and The Philadelphia Sun, among others, were given the royal tourism treatment in Memphis, Jackson and the surrounding region.
Accommodations in Memphis were provided by the Peabody and Madison Hotels. The comprehensive itinerary included tours of Graceland, National Civil Rights Museum, Delta Heritage Museum, Shiloh and Parker’s Crossroads, and many additional sites along Cotton Junction, Walking Tall and Great River Road Trails, including eating some scrumptious West TN BBQ.
Touring the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, commemorating its 10th anniversary in 2013, has already resulted in confirmed stories in major national publications as well as AAA Home & Away with 500,000 circulation.
The Chattanooga and Smoky Mountain Fall FAM, Nov. 5-10, brings 19 journalists to East TN, representing MSN.com, AAA Go, National Geographic Traveler, and Delta Sky among others.
The Chattanooga and SETN pre-FAM day hosts writers specifically interested in Native American History, exploring some of the most important Trail of Tears sites in America. 2013 is the 175th commemoration of the Trail of Tears. Tennessee has 12 national sites marking this historic event.
Trails highlighted during the East TN FAM include Tanasi, Pie in the Sky, Rocky Top and Sunny Side. More than 50 sites, attractions and restaurants are included on this impressive agenda, including the Tennessee Aquarium, Dollywood, the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum,
Bush Beans Visitor’s Center and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.
Special thanks to all of the Tennessee tourism partners who help make these FAMS a success.
Civil War Exhibits Installed at TN Welcome Centers
Through a partnership with TDTD, MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and the Department of Finance and Administration, permanent Civil War exhibits have been designed for the Tennessee Welcome Centers. Installations in the first four Welcome Centers will take place in November.
The purpose of these exhibits is to educate visitors and Tennesseans as to the important role Tennessee played in the Civil War and to promote the Tennessee Civil War Trail as well as the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. Each exhibit features the regional impact of the Civil War and includes placeholders for the Civil War mapguides and the Tennessee Trails brochures.
Installations will take place at the following Welcome Centers:
Dr. Carroll Van West, director, MTSU Center for Historic Preservation, will hold Civil War workshops at each of the Tennessee Welcome Centers, providing Welcome Center and regional staff an overview of the impact of the Civil War in Tennessee and the regional story featured in the exhibit. These workshops are currently being scheduled.
Governor Haslam and Senator Alexander Name Rocky Fork as Proposed Site for Tennessee’s 55th State Park
ERWIN, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau today joined members of the General Assembly, local elected officials and members of the community for a special ceremony, held at the Unicoi Welcome Center, announcing the future conveyance of more than 2,000 acres in the Rocky Fork area of Unicoi County, that will eventually become Tennessee’s 55th state park. .
The property is part of the 10,000-acre tract acquired by The Conservation Fund and U.S. Forest Service in 2008, and will be conveyed to the state of Tennessee in the coming months.
“Today’s announcement at Rocky Fork comes on the heels of a multi-year effort led by a coalition of both public and private partners,” Haslam said. “I want to extend my congratulations to the citizens of Northeast Tennessee who rallied in support to preserve this beautiful property and to personally thank both Sen. Alexander and The Conservation Fund for their ongoing efforts, passion and commitment to conserve this remarkable 10,000-acre tract, a part of which will eventually be home to Tennessee’s newest state park.”
Located along the Appalachian Trail corridor and the Tennessee-North Carolina border near Asheville, Rocky Fork is named after the cool waters that run down its center. The property is adjacent to more than 22,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service-designated wilderness, including Sampson and Bald mountains. Before Rocky Fork’s acquisition by The Conservation Fund and U.S. Forest Service, it was one of the largest unprotected tracts in the southern Appalachian Mountains.
The future development of Tennessee’s 55th state park has been made possible through the leadership of Haslam, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and through the very generous support of The Conservation Fund and U.S. Forest Service. Federal funding for the Rocky Fork land acquisition was made possible through the extraordinary efforts of Sen. Lamar Alexander and the Tennessee Congressional Delegation to secure support from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and through significant private contributions totaling more than $4 million. Other key partners include TWRA, Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Unicoi and Greene counties, and the Upper East Tennessee Region.
“A Tennessee State Park in the Rocky Fork area will attract anyone who enjoys the Great American Outdoors to come to beautiful Unicoi County, have a good time, and spend some money to build up the tax base,” Alexander said. “We have seen this happen in Maryville, Sevierville and Asheville, and there is no reason it cant happen in Erwin. Congratulations to Gov. Haslam, The Conservation Fund and other state and local officials for their vision and leadership.”
The entire Rocky Fork wilderness area provides a wide range of world-class recreational opportunities, including hiking the popular Appalachian Trail, fishing more than 16 miles of blue-ribbon trout streams, and hunting bear, turkey, deer and grouse. The area is also home to both state and federally endangered species, including the Peregrine falcon.
“Gov. Haslam has emphasized a healthier Tennessee as one of his top Administration priorities, and a proposed state park at Rocky Fork will certainly play an important role in the state’s ongoing efforts to create healthier citizens,” said Martineau. “I join the Governor and Sen. Alexander in thanking all of the incredible partners – both public and private – who helped make today’s announcement happen.”
The 2,000 acres to be conveyed by The Conservation fund offer a low-impact, financially feasible proposal for a new state park, which would also serve as a catalyst for economic activity in Unicoi County and surrounding areas. While discussions are under way regarding the proposed park’s development, budgeting and appropriations will first need to be reviewed and approved by Gov. Haslam and Tennessee’s General Assembly. However, preliminary plans for this “park in progress” include an access road, ranger station, primitive campground, picnic areas and trails, in addition to interpretive efforts to share the historic Revolutionary War-era battles site.
“We applaud the leadership and foresight of Gov. Haslam and Sen. Alexander, who have championed a momentous conservation effort at Rocky Fork and secured this beloved place for continued public use for generations to come,” said Rex Boner, senior associate for The Conservation Fund. “This is truly a remarkable achievement made possible through the loyal support and devoted efforts of so many local, state and national groups and individuals for the recreational and economic benefit of the surrounding communities.”
Tennessee’s 54 state parks and 82 natural areas span the state from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River and offer an array of diverse natural, recreational and cultural experiences, including hiking, camping, boating and golfing. Celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year, the Tennessee State Parks system was established through legislation in 1937. Today, there is a state park within an hours drive of just about anywhere in the state, with features such as pristine natural areas and a variety of lodging and dining choices. For more information, visit Tennessee State Parks website at www.tnstateparks.com.
<p><strong>Examining Current Trends - Leisure Travel </strong></p>
<p><em>Source: U.S. Travel Association, Research and Trends by Dr. Suzanne Cook, October 2012</em></p>
<p>By some reports, luxury travel continues its comeback from the depths of the recession, but the recovery remains slow. Marriott Internationals Ritz-Carlton reports that it has seen the pace of recent group business bookings for 2013 improve "in the low single digits" over last years levels, according to Chris Gabaldon, the chains chief marketing officer. But, "the strongest segment by far has been leisure," according to Gabaldon.</p>
<p>According to luxury travel agency network Virtuoso, bookings are up by 51 percent compared to 2009. Broken down by category, hotel bookings jumped the most (82%), followed by rental cars (70%), airlines (68%), tours and on-site arrangements (51% each) and finally, cruises (30%).</p>
<p>According to Dr. Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global, many opportunities exist in the leisure market, and the key is to keep ones finger on the pulse of those changes to best take advantage.</p>
<p>Leisure travel continues to dominate and experience the greatest recovery, and the affluent are driving this demand. Aging demographics are providing new opportunities for the industry as grand-travel and multigenerational travel has become much more popular. At the same time, Millennials are a "fickle group" and according to Yesawich, "Smart money in marketing today is no longer in trying to repatriate the existing guest. Its to cultivate the sense of wanderlust thats percolating in the next generation."</p>
<p>Restaurants also seem to be doing better. Buoyed by stronger same-store sales and customer traffic levels, the National Restaurant Associations (NRA) Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) posted a modest gain in August, up 0.4 percent from July and the first increase in five months. August represented the 10th consecutive month that the RPI stood above 100, which signifies continued expansion in the index of key industry indicators.</p>
<p>Travel agencies expect to see stronger profits in 2012 and 2013, returning to pre-2009 profit levels, according to a recent American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) survey. Most ASTA members said their revenues, transactions and client volumes were the same or better in 2012 than in the first half of 2011. Similar to 2011, the years results are a major improvement over those from 2010, when one-third of agencies saw a decrease in performance. Cruises, tours/groups, insurance and FIT were the strongest performing segments, based on the percentage of agencies reporting increased sales in the first half of 2012. Agencies are optimistic regarding future profits; the average profit predicted for 2012 is nine percent, while 2013 brings an even stronger year with an average profit of 10 percent predicted.</p>