Land of the Smokies: a review

December 27, 2007

Tim Hollis has written a wonderful book on the various–and mostly long gone–roadside attractions of Tennessee and North Carolina. His Land of the Smokies covers territory from Boone, North Carolina through the towns around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain. The book, published by the University of Memphis Press, is filled with a delightful collection of color photos, postcards, and various brochures from places such as Ghost Town in the Sky, Frontier Land, and Silver Dollar City.

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Touring the East Tennessee Backroads: second edition

December 11, 2007

Travel books about Tennessee have come and gone, but a perennial seller is Carolyn Sakowski’s Touring the East Tennessee Back Roads, which has now come out in a second edition. Like her first edition, which was published in 1993, about the time I began writing Moon Handbooks: Tennessee, Carolyn has driven the byways of the eastern part of the state and woven history into a set of tours.

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Culinary tourism: Selmer and Southern Foodways

November 4, 2007

I just got home last night from a culinary tourism swing across Tennessee, and today’s Memphis Commercial Appeal brings a great story on the Southern Foodways Alliance’s (SFA) tenth annual Symposium held last week in Oxford, Mississippi. Roy Blount, Jr. was the headliner. Here are several podcasts of the event, although I don’t see Roy’s remarks among them–too bad about that.

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Roy Blount, Jr. photo by Valerie Shaff from Blount’s website

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Eating up culinary tourism

September 24, 2007

One of the education sessions at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism held last week in Chattanooga was hosted by Erik Wolf, president and CEO of the International Culinary Tourism Association (ICTA), an Oregon-based organizations whose mission is “To help food and beverage manufacturers and providers, as well as travel industry professionals, to package and promote their culinary treasures as marketable and sellable attractions.”

Wolf defines culinary tourism as a subset of cultural tourism, yet made the point that everyone is a culinary tourist. We all eat three times a day, and one of the most frequent questions asked by visitors is “Where’s a good place to eat?” He said that he thinks Tennessee is ripe ground, so to speak, for culinary tourism, and I’d have to agree.

Erik Wolf of the International Culinary Tourism Association

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Governor’s Report: tourism by the numbers III

September 23, 2007

This is the last call on stats from the 2007-2008 Governor’s Conference Report issued by the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development. I promise.

Top 10 Tennessee Attractions

These numbers come from the attractions themselves and have not been verified. Two big players–Graceland and the Nashville Motor Speedway–got uppity and didn’t report anything.

1. Dollywood

2. Bristol Motor Speedway

3. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg

4. Memphis Zoo

5. Ober Gatlinburg

6. Grand Ole Opry House and Opry Museum

7. Tennessee Aquarium

8. Casey Jones Village in Jackson–this is the only one on this list with free admission

9. Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurrican Mills

10. Memphis Motorsports Park

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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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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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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.”

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(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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