How does tourism grow?

Hank Hayes • Mar 19, 2018 at 8:30 AM

KINGSPORT – Kevin Triplett stresses you can go anywhere in the world and say three names – Dolly, Elvis and Jack – and people think Tennessee.

“You don’t need to say Parton, Presley and Daniels,” Triplett, Tennessee’s commissioner of Tourist Development, recently told attendees at the Tennessee Environmental Conference.

How does Tennessee market the state to tourists?

The Tourist Development department’s brand is: “Soundtrack of America, Made In Tennessee.”

“We have seven genres of music that call Tennessee home – we want to own what we own,” Triplett noted.

What is tourism’s economic impact in the state?

Tourism is the state’s second largest industry behind agriculture. It has a $19.3 billion economic impact, with 176,000 jobs, $4.3 billion payroll in those jobs, and bringing $1.7 billion in tax revenue to the state.

“In our 95 counties we want to increase the tourism impact in every county,” Triplett said. “Every county brought in at least one million dollars in economic impact, 92 of our 95 counties saw an increase in economic impact … 19 had more than $100 million in economic impact.”

Which counties bring in the most tourism revenue?

The top five are Davidson, Shelby, Hamilton, Knox and Sevier. Sullivan County is seventh.

What are Tennessee’s tourism advantages?

“What we encourage people to do is think about the development that tourism can bring along with that,” Triplett noted. “We have history. We have scenic beauty, the outdoors. We have family experiences. We have music … in 2009 we had three distilleries in this state and the legislature changed the rules, and we now have more than 30 so there’s a Whiskey Trail created and we help promote that. We have a half million acres of lakes, 50,000-60,000 miles of rivers and streams; in 56 of 95 counties, the number one asset is natural resources; and we have 56 state parks.

“We have to market to five different age groups, we were struggling to reach the millennial age group. If it’s not on their phone or device, it doesn’t exist.”

How is the state trying to grow tourism?

Triplett said his department markets to outlying states – not only the states Tennessee has borders with – in addition to foreign countries.

“We have almost 700,000 visitors from other countries,” he pointed out. “Last year, we created a new system at our welcome centers for those team members to be travel ambassadors … our welcome center team members were so knowledgeable about their area … we have 16 of them, seeing 14 million people a year and Tennessee might not be their final destination … we try to treat people better. It takes years to develop a partnership with people. It takes 10 minutes to lose them.”

In May, British Airways will begin direct flights to Nashville from London. Triplett also said his department will initiate a “Tennessee Music Pathways” promotion this year.

“We tell people: Be who you are,” he told the conference. “There’s one Dollywood in one county. Ninety four counties can say ‘We don’t have a Dollywood.’ What do you have? You have natural resources. You have lakes. You have rivers, greenways, beltways.”