tourism

Last place you’ll ever visit? Tennessee’s vaccine policy becomes late-night TV fodder

Late-night TV comedian Stephen Colbert is taking aim at Tennessee’s decision to fire its vaccine chief and stop marketing any immunizations to children.

“Tennessee, the Volunteer State, has one of the worst vaccination rates in the country,” Colbert said in his monologue Wednesday. “And they aim to keep it that way.”

Colbert suggested the state is proud of it’s anti-vax ways, and his program created a new tourism ad to suit:

“Discover Tennessee: Scenic lakes, beautiful state parks, and soon: polio!” the ad’s narrators says. “There are just so many things to do — and catch — in Tennessee.”

The parody ends with a new tourism slogan for the state: “Tennessee: The last place you’ll ever visit.”

As tourism officials like to say, you can’t buy this kind of publicity.

Gov. Lee responds to critics of free airfare program

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters in Gainsboro on July 8. 2021. (Image credit: State of Tennessee)

Gov. Bill Lee spoke to reporters for the first time late last week about his program to give away $250 flight vouchers to tourists who book two-night stays in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.

Here is what he said:

Q: Why is this program necessary?

Lee: The tourism industry in this state is the second-largest generator of tax revenue for Tennessee. It’s an enormous industry in our state. And it’s suffered tremendously through the pandemic, arguably as much as any other industry in the state. An effective marketing campaign is the strategy there. We accomplished that. I’m committed to the tourism industry and will continue to be. That was a relatively small financial commitment, that particular campaign. But we have plans for commitment and investment in recruiting folks to Tennessee, especially to rural counties and to places that are not traditionally where they come. But need to invest in tourism. I’m glad we did it.

Q: Lt. Gov. Randy McNally has been critical, saying he thought more areas should be involved. And some people are critical over the ad. How do you respond?

Lee: Always a lot of critics. But that comes with politics. But what we’re committed on is creating opportunity and jobs in this state and a return on investment. And that was a marketing campaign that will have a great return on investment. It will help support a very important industry in this state. And it is one of a comprehensive approach we will take in tourism investment over the year.

Q: Some of the Republicans in the Senate particularly felt blindsided. Have you spoken to the Lt. Gov. or finance chairs to allay some of those concerns?

Lee: I’ve spoken to the lieutenant governor a couple times, but not on that issue. The lieutenant governor and I have a very good relationship and very strong working relationship. We don’t agree on everything, but we work together for a lot. I actually haven’t talked to him about that issue. As I said, it’s one of many investments in tourism development that we will make. It’s a return on investment.

Q: So you intend to continue with the Tennessee On Me campaign?

Lee: Yeah. It’s already rolled out. It’s out there. We’re fortunate that we had a global music guy in Brad Paisley willing to push that out through his channel. It was a message sent out to millions of people across America that Tennessee is a place to think about coming to.

New U.S. Civil Rights Trail includes 10 Tennessee locations

Press release from Tennessee Department of Tourist Development

Memphis, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Kevin Triplett, today (Wednesday) officially dedicated 10 sites in Tennessee as part of the newly-launched U.S. Civil Rights Trail. The announcement was made during a press conference at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

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Tourist trips to TN set new record in 2016

News release from TN Department of Tourist Development

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development joins tourism industry partners to celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week May 7-13 by marking another year of record-setting growth for the state’s $18.4 billion tourism industry.

According to the latest research from DK SHIFFLET, 110 million people visited a Tennessee destination in 2016, a 4.4 percent year-over-year increase, making Tennessee one of the Top 10 states for domestic travel in the United States for the third consecutive year. Approx. 80 percent (88.4 million) of Tennessee visitors are leisure travelers, an increase of 5.1 percent compared to 2015. This increase of leisure travelers can be attributed to overnight stays, which grew by 5.2 percent.

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