Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 8, 2018

Statewide effort bringing more tourists to Tennessee

Politicians – in general – try not to attack members of their own party.

The same holds true in the tourism world, with internal battles to lure visitors from one part of Tennessee to another set aside in an effort to lift everyone’s ticket totals, room bookings, food sales and general revenue.

That means officials representing the Big 3 — Nashville/Davidson County, Memphis/Shelby County and Sevier County (Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) are hunkered down with Knoxville and Chattanooga, which are no slouches when it comes to tourism, as well as smaller municipalities that might not even have a tourism official, much less a marketing budget.

“We have the Tennessee Tourism Committee, which is chaired by [Ryman Hospitality Properties CEO] Colin Reed,” says Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. “We’ll all get into a room and talk strategy, where the state is going and where we feel each of us could help.”

These days Nashville is responsible for about a third of the state’s visitors, and so Spyridon says he and his team have plenty going on their own when it comes to marketing and outreach, but the state connection also is very important.

“We can’t wait on everyone else to iron out their plans, but we appreciate and support what everyone else is doing,” he adds.

“We just have more rooms and a higher growth percentage right now, so we have to move quickly. Even so, every other tourism organization in this state is a good friend to us, and we want them to succeed.”

“We want people to come, and we want those stays extended,” explains Kevin Triplett, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

“We’re bordered by eight states. We already were a great driving destination. That’s why we meet individually or as a group, at least twice a year, with our biggest destinations and make sure we’re on the same page.

“If Nashville is running a big promotion in Indianapolis, for example, we may take the state message to Cincinnati. We’re basically the marketing agency for the state, and so we work to make sure we’re hitting as many markets effectively as possible.”

A fluid process also means that the state team can react quickly if a new destination opens, or if a particular section of the state wants to create a campaign drawing interest to its outdoor recreation or other differentiators.

The department also isn’t unafraid to try something unique, such as installing viewfinders for the color blind alongside many scenic vistas.

“That was a huge success, and this year we’re adding more,” Triplett notes. “We have some jewels on the ‘blue highways,’ those that are U.S. vs. interstate highways, and we’ll work with anybody to promote what they have. When we can get people here, and to those areas, everybody benefits.