a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker

Dear Colleagues,

What an exciting couple of weeks this has been! The Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Sevierville was a spectacular venue for the announcement of some pretty spectacular tourism numbers for Tennessee.

Industry Spotlight

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Featured Article

Record Attendance at 2012 Governor’s Conference on Tourism

The 2012 Governor’s Conference on Tourism saw recording breaking attendance, with 446 registrations and more than 550 attending the concluding luncheon on Friday. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam expressed his support for the tourism industry in his address during Friday’s luncheon in Sevierville.

The Tennessee tourism industry had cause for celebration...

Read more

DTTB Sustainability Plan in Full Swing

The Sustainability planning for the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program is in full swing. On Sept. 10, 2012, over 60 industry partners joined together to begin discussions on where we are, where we are going, and where we need to be.

Three priorities were determined:

1. 10% of Partnership...

Read more

Sales Team Organized TN State Fair Exhibit

Like last year, the Department was invited to have a presence at the Tennessee State Fair in Nashville, and we were able to partner with State Parks to exhibit during the duration of the 10-day Fair, September 7 – 16, 2012. Many thanks go out to the booth volunteers, including...

Read more

SEOPA’s Fall Conference in Johnson City a Success

The Johnson City CVB hosted the Annual Fall Conference of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association September 26-29 in Johnson City. This organization of professional men and women serves a membership of outdoor communicators, including more than 500 magazine and newspaper writers, book authors, photographers, radio and television personalities, lecturers, editors,...

Read more

ABC’s “Nashville” Premieres October 10

ABC’s new fall show "Nashville" premieres Wednesday, Oct. 10, 9 p.m. CT, 10 p.m. ET on ABC. “Nashville” stars Connie Britton as Rayna Jaymes and Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes lead the cast in the new primetime drama topping many lists as best new drama of the season.

“Nashville” is...

Read more

Dear Colleagues,

What an exciting couple of weeks this has been! The Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Sevierville was a spectacular venue for the announcement of some pretty spectacular tourism numbers for Tennessee.

According to the U.S. Travel Association’s Economic Impact Study for Tennessee, the state had $15.36 billion in direct travel expenditures in 2011, an 8.7 percent increase over 2010! This is the first time we have exceeded $15 billion, and, at $1.2 billion, it is the largest single increase we have seen in one year.

For the second year in a row, all 95 Tennessee counties had an increase in direct tourism expenditures, with 23 counties showing increases of 10 percent or more. All this tremendous statewide growth has placed Tennessee in 9th place in the U.S. for total travel!

And, for the sixth consecutive year, tourism business generated more than $1 billion in state and local sales taxes, once more providing an excellent return on the investment appropriated to the department by Governor Bill Haslam and the General Assembly.

It was wonderful to have the Governor join over 550 attendees at Friday’s luncheon where he acknowledged the industry’s success and potential for even greater growth as he talked about ‘doubling down’ on the state’s investment. We all heard his challenge to ‘drill’ the competition with a renewed effort to pull together in a unified, coordinated marketing effort. As I mentioned at the conference, we are a competitive bunch who would love to do just that!

Special thanks are in order for Brenda McCroskey and the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, our host Steve Cruz of the beautiful Wilderness Resort, John Whisenant, Tennessee Tourism Roundtable executive director, the TDTD staff, and all of our conference sponsors. Your teamwork helped make the 2012 Governor’s Conference on Tourism one of the best conferences I have ever attended! Just Thursday morning’s keynote address by Joel Manby on “Love Works” was reason enough to be there, but the entire conference continued to be exceptionally informative and entertaining.

Congratulations to Clark Shaw, Mary Steadman, Don Nichols and Mona Herring on receiving this year’s prestigious Tennessee Tourism Roundtable awards, all of them so well-deserved.

We don’t have to wait to celebrate 2012 tourism numbers. The Nashville CVB just reported the city is having its best tourism year in history. Tax collections are up 24 percent over 2011.  Sevier County reported a 10.5 percent increase in hotel room sales, January – July, year over year.  Great Smoky Mountains National Park is up over half a million visits YTD over last year. This is all great news!

It’s always nice to know that the word is getting out about all of Tennessee’s great destinations and Trails. Just last week, Stephanie Wells, executive director for Anderson County Tourism Council, let us know a group of motorcycle riders had come to Tennessee after reading an extensive article in Rider magazine about the White Lightning Trail. The writer, Glen Abbott, had attended Travel South Showcase where he was introduced to our Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program. When Glen expressed interest in White Lightning, an itinerary was planned and executed, and the article made the national magazine. Now that’s great teamwork with positive results. As Stephanie said in her email – it works!

Even as we celebrate so many examples of our industry’s growth and success, one of Tennessee tourism’s special heroes, who played such a pivotal role in making all this happen, has passed into eternity. Roger E. Brashears, Jr., our beloved friend and tremendous ambassador for Tennessee tourism for half a century, died Saturday, Sept. 22. Like many of you, I will never forget his personal friendship and words of wit and wisdom as he held court in his office at Jack Daniel Distillery. My heartfelt sympathy to his family, his many, many friends and especially to his beautiful bride of 52 years, Rosemary. We will miss you, Roger.

Governor Haslam reminded us during the Governor’s Conference that Tennessee is an “easy sell.” Yes it is, but we can never stop formulating new and even better plans to make that sale. Whether it’s RiverRocks in Chattanooga the first two weeks in October, the Jack Daniel’s 2012 Invitational Barbecue on October 27, or our 200+ fall festivals and events, there are so many wonderful things to see and do across this entire state. Thank you, tourism partners, for making good on the powerful Tennessee brand promise day after day.

Warmest regards,


Susan Whitaker

a message from Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker
Featured Article 

Record Attendance at 2012 Governor’s Conference on Tourism

The 2012 Governor’s Conference on Tourism saw recording breaking attendance, with 446 registrations and more than 550 attending the concluding luncheon on Friday. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam expressed his support for the tourism industry in his address during Friday’s luncheon in Sevierville.

The Tennessee tourism industry had cause for celebration as the newly released 2011 Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee study showed Tennessee tourism’s total direct economic impact at $15.36 billion, an increase of 8.7 percent over 2010. This is the first time the state has exceeded $15 billion, and at $1.2 billion, it is the largest single increase year over year.

“Tourism in our great state saw a 1.6 percent increase in the number of jobs, reporting 177,800 tourism jobs statewide, and had an economic impact of more than $15 billion,” Haslam said. “These achievements are shared by tourism employees committed to showcasing the best of Tennessee to the traveling public, and I want to congratulate the entire industry.”

State Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker presented her annual state of the industry address during Thursday’s luncheon, announcing the latest tourism statistics as reported by U.S. Travel Association.

For the sixth consecutive year, tourism business generated more than a billion dollars in state and local sales tax revenue, with a 2011 total of $1.17 billion. For the second year in a row, all 95 Tennessee counties had an increase in direct tourism expenditures, with 23 counties showing increases of 10 percent or more. International visitor spending increased to $450.2 million, a 14.6 percent increase over 2010, exceeding the 12.2 percent national average increase.

“Thanks to the collective hard work of our tourism industry, we saw a record-setting 54 million person-trips to Tennessee in 2011, now ranking us 9thamong all states in total travel,” Whitaker said. “Tennessee tourism continues to move the needle when it comes to increasing travel to our state. Our goal for more visitors, staying longer, spending more keeps driving the industry’s growth and success.”

The Sevierville Governor’s Conference host committee rolled out the red carpet for attendees. The theme was “Playing Tourism’s Song,” a play on the state’s branding campaign “Tennessee, We’re Playing Your Song.” Sevier County area attractions hosted an opening night event at Wilderness at the Smokies and offered conference attendees discounts or free admission to area attractions. In addition, attendees were welcomed with a surprise performance by the Sevier County High School Marching Band.

“We were thrilled to have Tennessee’s tourism professionals in our city and in Sevier County. This is the first time the Conference has been in Sevierville,” said Brenda McCroskey, Tennessee Tourism Roundtable chair and CEO, Sevierville Chamber of Commerce. “Our goal was to make this the best conference ever and with amazing participation, we made it happen.”

This year’s event brought some of tourism’s most respected professionals to address the tourism industry, including keynote speaker Joel Manby, president and chief executive officer, Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation.

This year’s TTR award recipients were as follows: 2012 TTR Knights of the Roundtable, Don Nichols; 2012 TTR Gladiator for Tourism, Mary Steadman, Miles; 2012 TTR Excalibur Award recipient, Mona Herring, Rutherford County CVB and 2012 TTR Wiley Oakley Award went to Clark Shaw, Casey Jones Village.

2012 CTTP graduates included: Jennifer Littlejohn, TDTD; Bennjin Lao, TDTD; Debi Boody, Oak Ridge CVB; Stephanie Wells, Anderson County Tourism Council; Laura Canada, Cookeville – Putnam County Chamber of Commerce; Stacie Pierce, Rutherford County CVB; Colleen Palmertree, Memphis CVB; Renee Moss, Brownsville – Haywood County Chamber of Commerce; Grey Stooksbury, Campbell County Chamber of Commerce; Pam May, Roane Alliance and Emily Hunt Johnson, Henderson-Chester County Chamber of Commerce.

Additional highlights at the conference included educational seminars offering a wide range of relevant topics vital to the tourism industry including social media marketing, adventure tourism and advertising strategies. Each seminar offered expert panelists along with in-depth presentations and discussion.

The location of the 2013 Governor’s Conference on Tourism will be announced in the coming months.

DTTB Sustainability Plan in Full Swing

The Sustainability planning for the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program is in full swing. On Sept. 10, 2012, over 60 industry partners joined together to begin discussions on where we are, where we are going, and where we need to be.

Three priorities were determined:

1. 10% of Partnership Marketing dollars will go toward trail programs.

2. An extensive tool kit is in the developmental stages to provide partners with necessary promotional items – brochure reprint schedules, signage, social media plan, logo files.

3. A communication schedule is in development with the trail teams to ensure that there is a solid flow of information.

A departmental planning meeting is scheduled for October 4, and more details will be available throughout the month of October.

Sales Team Organized TN State Fair Exhibit

Like last year, the Department was invited to have a presence at the Tennessee State Fair in Nashville, and we were able to partner with State Parks to exhibit during the duration of the 10-day Fair, September 7 – 16, 2012. Many thanks go out to the booth volunteers, including representatives from State Parks, The Renaissance Center, Greater Nashville Regional Council, South Central Tennessee Tourism Association, Loveless Café, the Tennessee State Museum, and the Department of Tourism. Hundreds of fair attendees were able to pick-up information and ask questions about our state’s wonderful tourism offerings from all three regions, not to mention additional details on the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program.

At this year’s Governor’s Conference, the Sales staff offered an educational seminar entitled “Group Tours 101”, which gave an opportunity for our industry partners to understand more about some of the trade shows and conventions that the department actively invests time and resources in, to promote group tour and travel to our state. The response was incredible, and we thank you for your support, engagement, and great questions. Our expert industry panelists included partners Joy McNealy (Pigeon Forge) and Laura Griffin (Graceland). If you have any questions about the seminar, please contact Bennjin Lao at Bennjin.lao@tn.gov.

Please submit any updated group tour offerings to the sales team, so that the most current information about your venue is available to be promoted to group tour operators. Upcoming trade shows in the next couple of months include Ontario Motor Coach Association (OMCA) and Travel South International Showcase. Please forward your updates to Bennjin.Lao@tn.gov. Thank you!

SEOPA’s Fall Conference in Johnson City a Success

The Johnson City CVB hosted the Annual Fall Conference of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association September 26-29 in Johnson City. This organization of professional men and women serves a membership of outdoor communicators, including more than 500 magazine and newspaper writers, book authors, photographers, radio and television personalities, lecturers, editors, artists, industry representatives and others.

Journalists received an authentic Tennessee welcome from the ETSU Old Time String Band during the opening event held at the Gray Fossil Site, one of Johnson City’s signature tourism attractions. The event was co-sponsored by the Johnson City CVB and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

In addition to the conference workshops, featured speakers, and awards banquet, Tennessee tourism partners offered a number of outdoor FAM experiences. Journalists wanting story and photography opportunities were offered a sample of Northeast Tennessee’s finest outdoor experiences, including smallmouth fishing on the Nolichucky and Holston Rivers, fly-fishing on the South Holston, a photo-tour of the Watauga River, quail hunting, a tour of the Shady Valley Wetlands Restoration Project, Whitewater rafting on the Nolichucky, caving in Bluff City, and a bird walk and butterfly safari at Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens in Erwin.

ABC’s “Nashville” Premieres October 10

ABC’s new fall show "Nashville" premieres Wednesday, Oct. 10, 9 p.m. CT, 10 p.m. ET on ABC. “Nashville” stars Connie Britton as Rayna Jaymes and Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes lead the cast in the new primetime drama topping many lists as best new drama of the season.

“Nashville” is Music City. It’s where todays top recording artists lay down tracks while tomorrows undiscovered talent fight to be heard. With the backdrop of a thriving contemporary music scene, and a tense mayoral race, "Nashville" takes us into the cutthroat world of music and politics, showing what it really means to become a star and stay one. The series is produced by Lionsgate, ABC Studios and Gaylord Entertainment.

In conjunction with the new show, ABC has launched the “Tour of Nashville” website, www.tourofnashville.com. The site takes visitors on a virtual tour of all the Nashville hot spots featured in the pilot episode… the Bluebird Café, the Nashville Arena, Rayna & Juliettes Dressing Rooms, Edgehill Republic and a stop off at Raynas home. Be sure to tune in Oct. 10!

Industry Trends

<p><strong>Tourism Launches Pinterest Account</strong></p>
<p>Tennessee Dept. of Tourist Development is excited to announce the launch of our Pinterest account. Pinterest is acontent sharing service that allows members to "pin" images, videos and other objects to their pinboard. Its rising popularity has taken the social networking world by storm.</p>
<p>Pinterest is a beautiful marketing tool. Not only does it allow you to give your brand a personality, but it also allows you to drive traffic and attention to your site. The key to executing this is to have a blend of content that is relevant to what your brand offers (what you offer/ sell/ promote), as well as fun content that isnt necessarily directly part of your brand, but is cohesive with what you stand for. We did just that for Tennessees Pinterest account, offering a fun mix of boards. While we have a long list of boards that are coming soon, we have started with the following:</p>
<p><strong>Fall Yall</strong>: This seasonal board includes fun fall ideas, recipes, and beautiful images of Tennessee fall foliage.</p>
<p><strong>Tennessee BBQ</strong>: This board is the perfect tool for traveling foodies looking for the best BBQ joints that Tennessee has to offer.</p>
<p><strong>Stars We Love</strong>: This fun gallery shares celebrity "My Tennessee Story" videos, about why they love Tennessee.</p>
<p><strong>Tennessee Weddings:</strong> With weddings being one of the most popular Pinterest categories, this board serves as a source of inspiration to the Tennessee bride-to be.</p>
<p><strong>Tennessee Cookin: </strong>There is no denying that people love Tennessee home cookin! This board offers some of our favorite dishes.</p>
<p><strong>Outdoor Adventure: </strong>Get in touch with your inner thrill-seeker! This board gives great options of what Tennessee has to offer to get your adrenaline pumping.</p>
<p><strong>Tailgating Essentials: </strong>This seasonal board gives fun ideas for food, games, and attire to make the most of your Tennessee tailgating this fall.</p>
<p><strong>Tennessee Style: </strong>This speaks directly to any Tennessee Southern belle seeking style inspiration.</p>
<p><strong>Made in Tennessee: </strong>We craft lots of great things in Tennessee. This board is a central hub of what those things are, and where you can learn more about them!</p>
<p>Our hope with Pinterest is to personify Tennessee: what we love, what were about, what our style is, and what we have to offer as a state. We want to inspire users with ideas, provide them with helpful information to plan their visit, and most importantly to fall in love with everything Tennessee.</p>
<p>Follow us!<a href="http://pinterest.com/tnvacation/">http://pinterest.com/tnvacation/</a></p>

Industry Spotlight