Chattanooga Bound!

Got a new bag and it is packed! I’m headed off on Wednesday to the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable, the “united voice of the Tennessee Tourism Industry,” for a look at the belly of the beast. I ‘ve never been to this event, which which this year combines the annual trade shows of the the Tennessee Restaurant Association and the Tennessee Hotel & Lodging Association.

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I most interested in going to these sessions:

Culinary Tourism: The Hidden Harvest This one is by Erik Wolf, president and CEO of the International Culinary Tourism Association, and the description reads as follows: “Culinary Tourism is hot! Food is an attraction – just like a museum, and food and drink are the most overlooked components of the visitor experience.”

I think Tennessee has wonderful cuisine and has not come close to its potential to attract the “foodies.”

Tourism Technology: It’s A Whole New World! Ryan Bifulco, President of Atlanta’s TravelSpike. His writeup says, “As new media evolves, we are seeing a digital convergence: social networking, travel search, digital PR, podcasting, blogging, and RSS feeds are now all integrated and play a major role in today’s interactive world. For the tourism and hospitality industries, being on the Internet is no longer about just “having” a Web site.”

For the past few days, I’ve been updating my TennesseeGuy website and dreaming about the possibilities of podcasting, etc. I’ll be the guy on the front row for this one.

Securing Tourism’s Place at the Local Economic Development Table The good professor, Dr. Steve Morse, Director of the University of Tennessee Tourism Institute, describes his session by saying “Those of us in the tourism and hospitality industry realize that tourism is economic development. But do local government officials, business and community leaders and citizens look at it the same way? Often not — and usually it’s because they don’t understand the tremendous impact tourism has on the local economy.”

On the other hand, to be fair, sometimes local officials and bidnessmen don’t understand tourism because they are idiots. I often marvel at seeing Tennessee counties and towns that will invest millions in railroad sidings, gas pipelines, and all manner of hardware in building “industrial parks” trying to lure jobs that took a slow boat to China decades ago but would never think to help subsidize–for far less money–a small restaurant, coffeeshop, or renovate 18th Century storefronts to attract visitors.

But I digress.

I’m flying Frontier Airlines from Denver to Nashville, and then will take–for the first time–a Chattanooga Coach from the Nashville Airport to Chattanooga. I can fly to Nashville for just under $200, but making it to Chattanooga by air would have added about $300 more onto the ticket. I’ll report on how this goes.

I hope to blog from the convention, so stay tuned.

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