Governor’s Report: tourism by the numbers II

September 23, 2007

The stats just keep coming from the 2007-2008 Governor’s Conference Report issued by the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development. Here, in no particular order, are some stats that I found interesting:

2006 State of Origin for Visitors to Tennessee

1. Tennessee

2. Georgia

3. Kentucky

4. Alabama

5. Virginia

6. Mississippi

7. North Carolina

8. Ohio

9. Indiana

10. Florida

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Resquiat in Pace Marcel Marceau

September 23, 2007

NPR brought the sad news this morning that Marcel Marceau has died at the age of 84. When I was a journalism school undergraduate at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, a father-son pair named Ralph and Robert Frost booked Marcel Marceau into Knoxville’s Civic Auditorium. I requested an interview with him, and to my astonishment my request was granted. Seems that no other media outlet in town even asked.

I met Marceau in the Hyatt House, where he was staying, and he was very generous with his time with me, even though I was writing for a student newspaper, the Daily Beacon. I interviewed him several years later when I was a freelance writer, when he saved my social neck. Therein lies a tale.

Yours truly and Marcel Marceau

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Lost Sea shrinking, but all is not lost

September 23, 2007

Nice piece in today’s Knoxville News Sentinel about Sweetwater’s Lost Sea. Although a long drought in the area has caused the underground lake level to drop to a level 20 feet below normal, the lowered waterline has revealed portions of the cavern never seen before by visitors.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

Governor’s Report: tourism by the numbers I

September 22, 2007

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen (D) gets it on tourism. Early in his first term, Bredesen plucked Susan Whitaker from Dollywood to become the commissioner of the Department of Tourist Development–I would rename it the Dept. of Tourism Development–and she brought a professionalism to a post that in the past had all too often been handed to political hacks.

Commissioner Susan Whitaker with Linda Caldwell of Tennessee Overhill

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Inside the Tennessee tourism industry

September 22, 2007

I just got back from Chattanooga and the Tennessee Tourism Roundtable, an annual meeting of convention and visitor bureau people from all over the state, hotel and restaurant folks, and a host of vendors happy to sell something to one and all. I usually write from the point of view of visitors to Tennessee, so it was an interesting look behind the curtain at how the state promotes itself. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development released a boatload of statistics at the event, which I will serve up over the next few days.

First, to no surprise, tourism is big business in Tennessee. Travelers spent an estimated $13.4 billion in the state in 2006, up 7.6 percent from the previous year. The state has no income tax and relies heavily on sales taxes. In 2006, some $2.8 billion in sales taxes flowed into state and local coffers.

 Governor Phil Bredesen works the crowd at the Roundtable

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Chattanooga Bound!

September 18, 2007

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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Mountain Dew chronicled in new book

September 17, 2007

An article in Sunday’s Knoxville News Sentinel discusses a new book on the story of Mountain Dew. This carbonated beverage, famous today as a high energy concoction aimed at young people, was created in Knoxville as a Seven-Up sort of mixer and first bottled for the public in Johnson City in 1954. The author of the book is Dick Bridgforth, whose father marketed Mountain Dew as the manager of Tri-Cities Beverage in the 1950s.

As seen on this old bottle below, in those days the marketing was a stereotypical barefoot hillbilly complete with rifle and hound dog. Persons of a certain age who grew up in East Tennessee can remember radio and TV ads in which someone shouted out “Ya-hoo! Mountain Dew!” In 1966 the formula was sold to Pepsi, which nixed the hick image and has sold the drink ever since.



This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

Niswonger Foundation fuels Greeneville revival

September 16, 2007

The progressive Niswonger Foundation, founded by East Tennessean Scott Niswonger, who made his money with a trucking company called Landair and Forward Air, Inc., is pouring money into making Greeneville a better place to live. The Foundation built a $7 million Performing Arts Center and now has set its sights on making Greeneville “a unique, pedestrian- oriented community where people can live, work and play within walking distance of a vibrant downtown.”



(Illustration from Rediscover Greeneville Tennessee)

A new website lays out the plans, which make sense for a lot of other Tennessee towns as well. The most interesting part to me is the strategy page, which contains some very good goals. Here are some of those goals and my comments on them:

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NAACP state convention this week in Jonesborough

September 16, 2007

As related by this article in the Johnson City Press, the Tennessee state convention of the NAACP will take place this week in Jonesborough. The oldest town in Tennessee at first seems an unlikely choice; relatively few black folks live in upper East Tennessee compared to Nashville or Memphis. The organization, however, rotates its annual conventions among the three Grand Divisions of the state, and locals made a strong case that their active chapter deserved to host everyone else.

Jonesborough has more than its share of African-American history. The article quotes Tour promoter Linda Poland, who says. “I’m sure they’re coming here due to our history, beginning in 1820 with the Elihu Embree anti-slavery newspapers like the Emancipator, carrying through the cholera epidemic of 1873, when Dr. Hezikiah Balch’s work really turned the tide on the epidemic and through the Warner Academy to educate the children of former slaves. We’ve never had a plantation economy and we were progressive before our time,” Poland said.


UT officials fly university jet to NASCAR race

September 16, 2007

President John Petersen and several other UT officials flew in the University’s jet to Tri-Cities Airport to attend a NASCAR race at the Bristol Speedway. Following all manner of negative publicity, a UT VP, Hank Dye, wrote a personal check to cover half of the flight and, one suspects, his gluteus maximus.

UT spokeswoman Karen Collins says Dye is covering part of the expense “out of an abundance of caution and accountability to the taxpayers.” Uh, yeah.


This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.