Tourists are “All Shook Up” about visiting Tennessee.
The state had a record-breaking year for tourism revenue in 2016, according to numbers released last week by Tennessee economic officials.
With attractions ranging from Graceland to the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee saw its direct tourism dollars increase 4.7 percent from 2015 to 2016. That resulted in $19.3 billion in total revenue.
In Warren County, officials are looking to increase the money generated from kayaking. The Chamber of Commerce has been awarded a $17,000 grant for signage along a popular river route, the development of maps indicating river access point, and rebranding our community.
It’s a 50-50 matching grant from the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. The total project will be $34,000.
The push for river signage may not be seen as a huge benefit for local kayakers, many of whom know their surroundings. However, people who are unfamiliar with the area can experience directional difficulty.
“With Smooth Rapids estimating their out-of-town customers at 80 percent of their rental business, there are plenty of people who aren’t sure where they are on the river,” said Chamber president Mandy Eller. “This can also present safety issues. If someone needs help along the river, they may not have a reference to tell rescuers where to find them.”
The signage provided by this grant will pay for mile markers along the most popular river route from Pepper Branch Park to the VFW, a float that takes around four hours.
The river access maps will help with those from out of town needing to find a place to drop their boat. Google Maps does not have each of these marked. Though river access maps do exist somewhat online, these will also have local restaurants and tourism attractions on the maps to enhance the visitor experience and encourage more tourism spending.
“Our rivers are a focal point of our tourism strategy going forward,” said Eller. “All other tourism can lead back to our rivers, whether they are the purpose of a visit or something extra to catch. Best of all, they can’t be taken away. This beckons the call for each of us to take care of them and the people on them.”
The company selected for the rebranding is Designsensory out of Knoxville. Its tourism marketing experience spans several states and includes projects in Augusta, Ga., Newark, N.J., Rossford, Ohio, and several Tennessee communities.
The Chamber has recently partnered with Designsensory on a marketing assistance program to provide a very modern, engaging video and marketing platform for industrial recruitment of businesses as well as employees.
Tennessee Tourism at a Glance 2016
• Tourism payroll -- $4.3 billion
• Tourism sales tax -- $1.7 billion
• New jobs created – 19,100
• Every Tennessee county had more than $1 million in tourism revenue in 2016
TN Dept. of Tourism Development