Web site complements Tennessee ad campaign

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee is working to increase visitor numbers with new print and TV advertising as well as a revamped Web site.

According to Ellen Thornton, director of marketing for the Tennessee Department of Tourism here, the state recently unveiled an advertising campaign that expands on the existing "Tennessee Sounds Good to Me" theme.

"This year we've added two new ads and we're focusing on TV and print advertising," she said.

While building equity in the existing slogan, the new campaign takes a "more emotional" approach, she said, focusing on history, heritage and culture, a change from previous campaigns which have focused on the music industry and specific sites.

The campaign "is taking our advertising to the next level," Thornton said, adding that the state wants to reach more potential visitors who are seeking new and different destinations.

Using the "Tennessee Sounds Good to Me" tag line and logo, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the state's diverse tourism product.

The campaign focuses primarily on Tennessee's bordering states, from which the lion's share of visitors arrive.

The state ranks its top drive-market states as follows: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, Ohio, Mississippi, Indiana, North Carolina and Texas.

According to the state's latest marketing plan, fully 85% of the state's visitors arrive by car.

Tennessee will spend $3.7 million on marketing advertising in 2001, Thornton said, in keeping with its budget for the previous year.

The department also is banking on marketing through the Internet, with its revamped Web site at the ready.

The site, at www.tnvacation.com, is promoted in the new advertising campaign and "is bigger and better," she said, with a new, user-friendly format.

The new version of the site, unveiled at a state conference in September, now includes a trip planner, which she said will increase ease of access to information that potential travelers might seek through the site.

Thornton said the site received a total of 4 million hits last year, and the department expects that number to increase substantially in the coming year.

"We know that inquiries are up, and we're working to become more savvy and better marketers on the site," she said.

The department will continue to reach out to travel agents in the coming year by attending international and regional retailer conferences, Thornton added.

In addition, the department will maintain communications with agents by conducting mailings and calling on individual agencies, she said.

Although tourism arrivals have been down slightly in recent years, more money is being made by tourism-related businesses, according to Thornton.

"We are having visitors stay longer and they are spending more money, so the cash registers are ringing," she said.

"The visitation numbers of the last two years have been about the same," she said, about 39 million visitors.

The latest economic impact figures -- from 1998 -- do show an increase, and "we expect this trend to continue," she said, because the department is targeting higher-end visitors.

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