Chattanooga Visitor's Bureau announces new strategic plan for tourism

Chattanooga Visitor's Bureau announces new strategic plan for tourism

October 9th, 2018 by Allison Shirk Collins in Breaking News

Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Barry E. White speaks during the Chattanooga Tourism Summit at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

Updated at 10:27 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, with more information.

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With a new board chairman and president, it was time that the Chattanooga Visitor's Bureau craft a renewed vision for tourism that will help increase the number of overnight visitors in the city and county.

At the local tourism bureau's first "Tourism Summit" Tuesday afternoon at the Chattanooga Convention Center, CVB President and CEO Barry White announced the organization's new strategic plan to a room full of the area's top tourism leaders and government officials. This is the first strategic plan the CVB has put together in several years.

With a new, lofty vision to be "the most competitive and innovated destination organization in the nation" by 2025, White said the CBV will work with partners to create a more unified, research-based branding strategy to use across all economic development platforms.

"We, as a community, need to have a unified voice in how we present ourselves to the rest of the world," he said.

In 2017, Hamilton County saw $1.1 billion in direct visitor spending and 5 percent growth over the previous year, according to figures from U.S. Travel Association released in August. Figures show 73 percent of visitors to the area only visit for the day, and White said Tuesday that the CVB aims to turn more of those visitors into overnight guests. About 54 percent of visitor spending comes from day-trippers, he said.

"We know the longer a visitor stays, the more money they spend," he said.

With around 10,000 hotel rooms, White said more than 11,000 visitors spend the night each day.

State tourism figures showed Hamilton County had nearly 9,000 tourism jobs in 2017 and tourists added $90 million in local and state taxes. Tennessee visitors spent more than $20 billion last year, setting a new record for tourism in the state and in Hamilton County.

As part of the tourism bureau's 2019-2021 vision, White said the CVB will seek accreditation through the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program, or DMAP, to ensure they are using the best financial practices. Last year, the tourism bureau came under fire after a state audit found the bureau didn't keep detailed receipts for credit card transactions under former president and CEO Bob Doak's leadership.

Each year, Hamilton County gives all hotel and motel occupancy tax to the tourism agency. Occupancy tax collections rose 60 percent in the past 10 years from $4.5 million in 2008 to $7.6 million last year.

DMAP international guidelines state a tourist organization must comply with 58 mandatory and 30 voluntary standards in areas such as governance, finance, human resources, sales, communications, destination development and research.

White said the CVB will also work to promote and increase sports tourism and cultural tourism in the area. In 2017, there were 197 events with a combined 82,834 attendees, which generated $39.5 million in economic impact.

Keynote speaker and tourism consultant Bill Geist said Tuesday that Chattanooga is ahead of other cities when it comes to its "night-time economy."

"Night life is what convinces day-trippers to spend the night," he said.

Geist also said millennials and young professionals will be a key factor to Chattanooga's long-term sustainability, stating there needs to be a constant flow of young people coming to the area to not only visit but to also put down roots.

Other "priority initiatives" under the strategic plan include leveraging technology and social media more in marketing the area, evaluating potential new locations for the CVB office and visitor center, investigating new funding sources and ensuring existing public investment.

Contact staff writer Allison Shirk at ashirk@timesfreepress.com, @Allison_Shirk or 423-757-6651.