Tennessee State goal: ‘Unprecedented’ tourism return
Tourism's untapped potential in the state was touted at the 2012 Tennessee Tourism Governor's Conference.
Gov. Bill Haslam and Gaylord Entertainment CEO Colin Reed told an audience of about 500 people that all Tennessee's already burgeoning tourism industry needs is a cohesive Memphis-to-Mountain City initiative to ratchet it up even another level.
"If the tourism industry works together in a way that has never happened before and we coordinate our efforts and message, I think we can see an unprecedented return," said Haslam.
Visitors spent a record $15.36 billion in the state last year. There were also a record-setting 54 million person-trips to Tennessee in 2011, ranking ninth in the nation, and up from 15th the previous year.
Still, Haslam said the state can do better in attracting visitors.
"We're doing well, but we think we should double-down," he said. "We feel we can do even better."
Reed, charged in April 2011 by Haslam to form a statewide tourism committee, presented several preliminary findings and suggestions.
"What we've been trying to figure out is how to bring more people to the state of Tennessee," said Reed, whose committee includes people from across the state who work in the tourism industry.
Reed said that Tennessee already has key and often unique ingredients in place to lure tourists to the state.
"We are so fantastically situated geographically, and this is the home of country music and rhythm and blues," Reed said.
"This notion of culture and heritage where people seek real stuff is very important. We have the original birthplace of this stuff. We've got to package it, communicate it and bring it to life."
Reed said the way to do that is get the myriad tourism organizations on the same page, brand their message and convince the state to appropriate more money for advertising and promotions.
Reed said he's confident that Haslam will sign off on the committee's final plan and recommendations, which he expects to be presented in the early part of December.
"I haven't seen a governor committed to tourism like this governor," Reed said.
If the committee's plan and the dollars make sense, Haslam sounded like he would be on board.
"We have an incredible brand, and our job is to maximize it," Haslam said. "My biggest job is to sell Tennessee."
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel