Tag Archives: tourism

Haslam touts record tourist spending

News release from Tennessee Department of Tourist Development
SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Kevin Triplett today announced Tennessee tourism’s direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached an all-time high of $18.4 billion in 2015, up 3.7 percent over the previous year, as reported by the U.S. Travel Association. The announcement took place at the Sevier County Courthouse near the iconic Dolly Parton statue. Mountain Rukus from Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede provided music.
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State subsidies not enough to save ‘Nashville’ from ABC ax

The ABC television drama “Nashville” will not be renewed for a fifth season despite allocation of another $8 million in incentive money including in the state budget for the coming year.

From The Tennessean:

The show’s production reshuffled its creative team and negotiated in principal a lucrative government incentive package in making its sales pitch for renewal to ABC. But inconsistent ratings plagued the program, a fictionalized drama on the local music industry and city politics.

Still, “Nashville” made its mark on the local economy.

Tourism leaders say “Nashville” lured visitors from around the globe. The Bluebird Café, which was a regular setting for the show, enjoyed sell-outs and long, winding lines of fans hoping to gain a seat.

“We are incredibly disappointed to hear the news that ABC has not renewed the show ‘Nashville’ for another season,” Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said in a written statement. “The show has been an enormously successful promotional tool for our city, which is why the state of Tennessee and Metro Nashville were prepared to support production for a fifth season to be filmed here.

“This is a loss for ABC and for the millions of fans across the world who have grown to love this show. We have enjoyed hosting the cast and crew of the show over the last four years and look forward to future opportunities for film and television production here in Nashville.”

…In four years of production, “Nashville” brought in $45.65 million in incentives, mostly from the state. The state and Metro justified the incentives because they viewed “Nashville” as an hour-long commercial for visiting the city.

In that way, the show influenced the incentive strategy for film work, with a new focus on productions that might help boost tourism.

“The state has supported the show, and we believe it was an excellent marketing vehicle for Tennessee,” said Bob Raines, executive director for the Tennessee Entertainment Commission. “The show had a great run, and it will live on through syndication and streaming services for people all over the world to enjoy. The show also leaves a terrific musical legacy that fans can continue to enjoy and associate with Tennessee and the city.”

Gov claims success in latest tourism ad campaign

News release from Department of Tourist Development
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Governor Bill Haslam and Commissioner Kevin Triplett, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, today announced the powerful results of a return on investment study, the first since launching the “Soundtrack of America, Made in Tennessee” brand campaign, during a special event at Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association’s Day on the Hill.

The new brand campaign was launched approximately 18 months ago. Research conducted from a third party, Strategic Marketing and Research Insights, indicates an 18-to-1 ROI. This shows Tennessee is collecting 18 tax dollars for every 1 dollar spent on advertising for the new campaign. The national benchmark used by SMARI for tax revenue collected is 9 tax dollars for every 1 dollar.

“This is great news, not only for our tourism industry but for all Tennesseans,” Haslam said. “An 18-to-1 return on investment is pretty impressive no matter what kind of business you’re in, but when you consider that the national average is only half that, it has an even bigger impact. We are blessed in Tennessee to have an abundance of incredible attractions – our music, our history, our beautiful landscapes and family destinations, and I want to thank our tourism and hospitality industry for their hard work to attract so many people and so much investment from around the world to Tennessee.”
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TN State Prison proposed as tourist destination

Nashville Councilwoman Mary Carolyn Roberts is pushing the idea of turning the old Tennessee State Prison, built in 1898 and closed in 1992, into a tourist attraction, reports The Tennessean. Roberts, who led local officials on a tour of the prison recently, would like to see the state give Metro Nashville the prison, allowing partnership with a private company for renovation and development.

As a model for what she has in mind, Roberts points to the former Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Morgan County in East Tennessee, which is now slated to become a new tourist destination, anchored by a moonshine distillery with a museum, prison tours, an RV park and music festival. Its transformation began with the state transferring the property to Morgan County before the privately led Brushy Mountain Group signed on as the developer.

She believes a similar project could work here — perhaps an artist co-op to feed Nashville’s thriving creative class — if a new entity can take over ownership of the prison.

“It just makes so much sense to utilize this,” Roberts said. “There are places like Brushy Mountain that are actually using their prison as tours and for all kinds of different things. I just think it would be a real shame if we look up and we don’t do something to save it.

“It’s just a gem waiting,” she said, arguing that if the state were interested in preserving the prison it would have done so by now. “I’m hoping that we can turn it into something that would be useful for Nashville.”

Stones River National Battlefield buys more land

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — The Civil War Trust has purchased two tracts of land to expand the Stones River National Battlefield site in Tennessee.

The Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro (http://on.dnj.com/1SyyVPG ) reports the recent purchases total about two acres and will help protect current park land and increase visibility.

Gib Backlund, a spokesman for Stones River National Battlefield and National Cemetery, says a small house on the property will be removed to restore the land to what it would have been like during the battle.

Stones River National Battlefield and National Cemetery serve as memorials to those who died in the battle.

Built and managed by the National Parks Service, the 650-plus acres of battlefield property offer a glimpse at what the landscape would have been like in Middle Tennessee during the Civil War.

Haslam appoints NASCAR veteran as state tourism commissioner

News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Kevin Triplett will join his cabinet as commissioner of the Department of Tourist Development.

Triplett, 49, is vice president of public affairs for Bristol Motor Speedway. Prior to joining BMS in 2005, he worked in various roles for NASCAR, ultimately serving as managing director of business operations, guiding the operation and administration of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series, and Camping World Truck Series. He has twice been named one of NASCAR’s “25 Most Influential” by The Charlotte Observer.

“Tourism is one of our state’s largest industries, providing $16.7 billion in direct economic impact, and Kevin brings a lot of energy and passion to the industry with decades of experience pulling together different stakeholders and constituencies,” Haslam said. “I appreciate his willingness to serve, and I look forward to working with him to continue building on Tennessee’s globally-recognized brand.”

“The destinations, arts and entertainment, history and beauty from Mountain City to Memphis is incredible. The wealth of knowledge that exists in the tourism industry throughout the state is a gold mine, and it is a privilege to work with those folks. I am honored Governor Haslam has given me this opportunity and thank Commissioner Whitaker for the path she has paved the last 12 years. I look forward to getting to work,” Triplett said.

From 1992 until 1994, Triplett represented General Motors Parts (GM Goodwrench and AC Delco) in NASCAR, specifically Richard Childress Racing and Ken Schrader Racing and their drivers, including Dale Earnhardt. Prior to his NASCAR tenure, he covered sports for the Bristol Herald Courier and The Gaston Gazette in North Carolina.
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Whitaker departs as state’s tourism commissioner

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Susan Whitaker, commissioner of the Department of Tourist Development, will be departing the administration after dedicating 12 years of leading the department to return to the private sector.

“Susan has done a great job of promoting the unique assets that Tennessee has to offer to visitors from across the country and around the world,” Haslam said. “I am grateful for her leadership and service as we’ve worked to leverage all of the good work happening across the state to attract more people to Tennessee.”

Tourism is one of Tennessee’s largest industries with a $16.7 billion direct economic impact
in 2013, a 3.4 percent increase over 2012. State and local tax collections reached a new high of $1.28 billion for tourism related businesses in 2013, which is the eighth consecutive year above $1 billion.

Whitaker has overseen the development and implementation of the state’s comprehensive marketing, public relations and promotions campaigns designed to stimulate growth of tourism in Tennessee including the state’s award-winning consumer website, www.tnvacation.com, and the state’s 15 Welcome Centers.

Under Whitaker’s leadership, the department launched the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program, featuring 16 comprehensive, statewide trails that guide visitors from Tennessee’s big cities to off-the-beaten-path attractions throughout the state. Each of Tennessee’s 95 counties is
included in the Trails program as well as the state’s five National Scenic Byways.

“These past 12 years have afforded me an unparalleled opportunity to work with every sector of the travel industry, both in Tennessee and nationally,” Whitaker said. “Cabinet positions are generally designed for eight year tenures; I have been so blessed to have had the privilege of serving an additional four years under the tremendous leadership of Governor Haslam.
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Haslam says state should keep up spending on tourism ads

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee needs to continue supporting taxpayer advertising and marketing campaigns to continue the momentum in the state’s growing tourism industry, Gov. Bill Haslam and other officials said.

A new U.S. Travel study shows tourism spending in Tennessee last year grew at twice the overall inflation rate, helping to support about one of every 20 jobs in the state, according to media reports.

Haslam said Friday that the state’s tourism industry grew by 3.3 percent in 2013 to more than $27 billion.

The industry employs 236,200 workers in Tennessee.

To sustain and grow that number, the state needs to continue to support the taxpayer advertising and marketing campaigns, Haslam told the Governor’s Conference on Hospitality & Tourism.

In a state with no income tax, he said, Tennessee relies heavily on sales and other taxes, and tourism is a prime generator of those revenues.

Tennessee officials recently signed a five-year, $60 million contract with a Kansas City, Mo., firm to produce the “Made in Tennessee” tourism campaign.

The marketing agency VML, which has opened a Nashville office, produced two 30-second TV commercials promoting getting outdoors in Tennessee. The ads feature waterfalls, green rolling hills and horseback-riding amid a forest scene. The ads will play in about a dozen markets around the country

Susan Whitaker, commissioner for the state Department of Tourist Development, said if tourism efforts continue to receive strong funding, they’ll be able to hit their goal of putting Tennessee into the top 10 states for tourism. Right now, in terms of revenue, Tennessee is ranked 17th.

“Tennessee’s tourism industry experienced major growth in 2013 and is continuing to set new records across the state in 2014,” Whitaker said. “This means more dollars that can be used for education, public safety and other essential services for all the citizens of Tennessee.”

The improved statewide numbers reflect a concerted effort by a lot of people to promote Tennessee, said Greg Adkins, president and CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association. A tourism industry committee put together by Haslam, for example, has invested some $12 million over the last two years and “has had a tremendous impact.”

“We have a lot of momentum,” said Adkins, who is a member of the governor’s committee. “One thing that’s evident with Tennessee is that we have a really strong brand, and I think that will continue to increase.”

On Rocky Top, TN and neighboring Briceville taking two paths to revival

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
ROCKY TOP, Tenn. — In the Appalachian foothills of eastern Tennessee, Rocky Top and Briceville share a common heritage and a common problem: How to revive communities that once boasted bustling main streets and jobs for nearly anyone willing to mine the coal once plentiful in the deep shafts underground.

Briceville has embraced the long-range vision of a nonprofit group offering college scholarships to people who are often first in their families to go beyond high school.

About five miles away, the town recently known as Lake City decided to change its name to Rocky Top. It is banking on the quick-strike dreams of developers promising a multimillion-dollar tourist complex built around the popular bluegrass song, that declares, “Rocky Top, you’ll always be home, sweet home, to me. Good ol’ Rocky Top. Rocky Top, Tennessee.”

The contrasting paths reflect more than divergent ideas. They dig deep into the increasing desperation of places across Appalachia mired in poverty and decline and receptive to any kind of help to reinvent themselves.

“Like most, or all, Appalachian coal mining towns, there are a whole lot of people out of work and uneducated,” said Stephanie Bohon, co-director of the Center for the Study of Social Justice at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Rocky Top and Briceville lie along Coal Creek, about 20 miles north of the nuclear engineers and supercomputers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but a world away. The creek carves out a narrow valley in the hills, trickling past forests that have swallowed up abandoned coal mines.

It passes the graves of 32 never-identified miners, killed in an explosion more than a century ago. And it passes small homes that cling to the hillsides in communities like Briceville, where descendants of coal miners still live.

Briceville, population about 500, recently lost its only store. And only a few businesses hang on in the downtown Rocky Top, home to about 1,800. There’s little anyone can do to stop the exodus of those seeking a paycheck.

Briceville’s opportunity came indirectly. Barry Thacker, a Knoxville coal mining engineer, showed up in 2000 with an idea to help improve water quality in Coal Creek and was met with a protest.

“About 40 of them had signs telling me how stupid I was to be worrying about fish when I should be worrying about people,” Thacker said. “And you know what? They were right.”

He listened to their concerns about the lack of health care, jobs and opportunities for their children. The result was Thacker’s Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, which has helped fund college education for three dozen Briceville students. So far, the foundation has spent $265,000 and committed $46,000 more to current students.

Starting in elementary school, the foundation sponsors field trips and brings in college students and professionals to teach children about their history, culture and the environment. It also sponsors watershed cleanups and other community service projects. Students who participate earn the opportunity to apply for scholarships if they agree to return to mentor younger children.

Recipients have become teachers, nurses, engineers, scientists and business managers. One is pre-med and another in law school. Some moved back, while others settled elsewhere to find work.

One recipient, Kyle Leinart, is beginning his senior year at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and majoring in computer science. He spent a summer in England, and this summer is working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

His mother, Kippie Leinart, a custodian at Briceville Elementary, says her son always wanted to go to college, even though no one on either side of the family had done it.

“I’m head of the household,” she said. “My husband’s disabled. So I worried how we were going to do this.”

She called Thacker’s foundation “a blessing.”

Thacker said he originally approached Rocky Top with the idea of working in that community, but there was no interest. Years later, the town embraced the idea of changing its name from Lake City. And it’s not the first time for such a change. The town, which has no lake, was originally called Coal Creek but switched in the 1930s to attract tourists heading to nearby Norris Lake.

Like Kippie Leinart in Briceville, Rocky Top Mayor Tim Sharp sees God’s hand at work in his town. For him, though, it delivered a pair of entrepreneurs who thought the city could transform its fortunes by adopting the name of the unofficial anthem of the University of Tennessee, played incessantly at football games.

“Things have happened with divine intervention,” he said. “There’s just been too much positive energy.”

The plans are audacious for a town where the only bustle is a small cluster of motels and restaurants off Interstate 75. Rocky Top’s master design includes an indoor-outdoor water park, an interactive animated theater, a live music venue and a theme park.

Sharp expects to break ground on the water park in about 18 months. Later plans include a 500-seat paddleboat restaurant on an as-yet-to-be-constructed artificial lake.

“I don’t know how many good-paying jobs there are going to be,” Sharp said. “They won’t be $25-an-hour jobs. You’re looking at maybe $10- or $11-an-hour jobs. But that’s better than nothing.”

Third-generation resident Gordon Cox fondly remembers a different time when his town had five clothing stores, three hardware stores and two dime stores.

“We are so hopeful that these developments will bring back a really healthy community,” he said.

Just in the past six weeks, Cox said, four businesses called him about renting properties he owns in town.

Sharp said he is not bothered that the company that holds the rights to the song “Rocky Top” is suing developers and the town to try to stop the project.

“That’s just Satan throwing us a bump in the road,” he said.

Out-of-state firm gets $60M contract to promote ‘Made in Tennessee’ campaign

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee officials have signed a five-year, $60 million contract with a Kansas City, Missouri firm to produce the “Made in Tennessee” tourism campaign.

The marketing agency VML, which has opened a Nashville office, produced two 30-second TV commercials promoting getting outdoors in Tennessee. The ads feature with dramatic waterfalls, green rolling hills and horseback-riding amid a forest scene. The ads will play in about a dozen markets around the country.

The head of the state’s tourism department, Susan Whitaker, told WPLN-FM in Nashville (http://bit.ly/1pzZ6VM ) at a time when other states are investing heavily in tourism promotion, Tennessee needs to keep up. Whitaker also cited ABC’s “Nashville” as sparking new interest in visiting the city. VML’s ad campaign is aimed at turning that interest into a visit.

Governor Bill Haslam’s current budget included a nearly $11 million tourism budget, $6 million of which is being dedicated to the VML contract. It’s a 5-year agreement, and the firm’s total maximum payout is $60 million, though that doesn’t guarantee that’s what the company will be paid.

Whitaker said publicly-financed advertising yields big turns. For every taxpayer dollar invested, around $19 are sunk back into local and state coffers, she said.

Whitaker said if tourism efforts continue to receive strong funding, they’ll be able to hit their goal of making it into the top 10 states for tourism. Right now, in terms of revenue, Tennessee is ranked 17th.

“Part of the reason for that, and I don’t broadcast this to people when they come, is that we have a very high sales tax,” she said.