Tourism: Many work behind the scenes to promote the UC
Liz Engel Clark
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Technically, anyone who travels more than 50 miles is considered a tourist – in terms of spending on transportation, lodging, food, entertainment and recreation. But how, exactly, do we get them here?
First, there’s trade shows and expos.
The Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber, for one, attends almost a dozen golf shows in order to promote its 10 championship courses. And folks with the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association (UCTA) often trek to out-of-state trade shows in Cincinnati and Indianapolis, where thousands of materials are distributed to an interested and engaged audience. Next year, UCTA director Ruth Dyal said, they will spend more time on the ground in Atlanta and Birmingham.
She estimates as many as 50-60 percent of UC’s tourists come from outside Tennessee’s borders.
“If you go to the lakes, for instance, and check where the cars come from, it’s Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana,” Dyal said. “We also get a lot of phone calls from Birmingham and Atlanta. People (from these areas) know quite a bit about us, but everybody always says the same thing – how nice and how friendly people are here, and that’s why they come back.”
There’s local expos, too. Stay and Play, which was held in Cookeville in March, and Cumberland County’s version, the Staycation Expo, held in late April, both have the same goal in mind: to capture the local tourist who just might take for granted the great attractions in their own backyard.
“When you live in this region, you’re so used it, that you don’t always know what’s here,” Dyal said.
Outside of hard-nosed travel, there’s co-op, or shared, advertisements in national publications. Dyal says they’re promoting the Upper Cumberland Wine Trail this year, which stops at all six wineries in the UC: DelMonaco Winery in Baxter, Red Barn Winery in Lafayette, Holly Ridge Winery in Livingston, Highland Manor Winery in Jamestown, and Stonehaus Winery and Chestnut Hill Winery in Crossville. UCTA and chambers alike also take advantage of opportunities to host travel writer tours, hoping for some free pub in magazines or newspapers seen throughout the country and Southeast region.
The Upper Cumberland Quilt Trail, for example, was promoted in a recent Georgia edition of Southern Living. It had a great response, Dyal said.
“I’m giving out information left and right about our quilt trail,” Dyal said. “The quilt trail is extremely popular. And, actually, based on advertisement, we are getting visitors from Europe now. They are interested in the bluegrass (music). So it’s paying off. It just takes awhile.”
And, last but not least, there’s National Tourism Week, which, in a sense, is a culmination of all the above efforts. Dyal, for example, will spend time on the road at interstate welcome centers in Smith County (I-40), Mitchellville (I-65), Jellico (I-75), Clarksville (I-24) and Chattanooga during the first full week in May, making contact with frontline workers there, informing them of UC attractions and getting materials – brochures and the like – to anyone and everyone passing through. It’s an opportunity to thank visitors who do take the time to discover what’s here.
“That’s why we travel,” Dyal said. “It’s important. Sometimes they may have plans to go to a specific place, and maybe they don’t come this time, but next time around, they will. But oftentimes they don’t realize what’s right here. We have lots to do here.”