DeLoach: Chattanooga gets $1.1 billion in tourism. Wow! Really?

DeLoach: Chattanooga gets $1.1 billion in tourism. Wow! Really?

May 27th, 2018 by Jeff Deloach in Opinion Columns

Tim Martin, a staff member at the Tennessee Aquarium retrieves Cara DeLoach's phone from a stormwater drain.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Tourism spending in Chattanooga — $1.1 billion — is a big number with a big economic impact. What helps make that happen is even more impressive.

I am referring to just how impressive Tennessee Aquarium employee Tim Martin is, and how his response to my daughter's mishap illustrates the hospitality that makes Chattanooga the tourism giant that it is. Over the Christmas holiday this past year, my daughter, Cara DeLoach, visited Chattanooga from Fayetteville, North Carolina, where she lives and works as a professor at a local community college.

Cara DeLoach, a visitor to Chattanooga, with Tim Martin, a staff member at the Tennessee Aquarium who retrieved her phone from a stormwater drain.

Cara DeLoach, a visitor to Chattanooga, with Tim...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

We took many trips around town with Cara; her brother, Joey, who is a UTC student; and her other brother, Adam, who was visiting from San Angelo, Texas, with his girlfriend, Jacquelyn (he asked her to marry him on the Walnut Street Bridge during the visit, by the way).

One day it was all about taking the gang to see the attractions in downtown Chattanooga, including our impressive aquarium.

On this particular downtown-trip day, Dec. 30, we jumped into the van and headed out of Soddy-Daisy. It was a cold day, in the 30s as I pulled up in front of the aquarium to let everyone out of the van. Cara was sitting in the seat next to the side door. Upon opening the door, she stepped out of the car. Her cellphone went flying off her lap and headed for the pavement below with a solid bounce, and, yep, right to the bottom of a 4-foot-deep manhole. There wasn't much hope for retrieving that phone, until Cara proceeded into the aquarium's River Journey to ask for help. That is where Tim Martin comes in.

Upon overhearing Cara's story, Tim offered to help. Little did Tim realize at the time just how intense an effort this would prove to be. For something like four or five hours it seemed, Tim worked numerous strategies, making many trips back into the aquarium to retrieve another gadget to try again to recover that cell phone. This went on and on. At one point, he went to his personal vehicle to retrieve the good stuff, yep, duct tape, with which he proceeded to tape together several gadgets in his effort to help this out-of-state visitor. Tim stayed glued to the pavement, face down against the manhole grate for hours — no joke — because he was determined to retrieve that phone.

To our shock, his determination paid off: He retrieved the phone. We were all amazed. Tim encouraged us from the beginning to go and enjoy touring the aquarium while he worked on the phone. While my daughter stayed with him the entire time, the rest of us toured the aquarium and walked out on the pedestrian bridge, where our son Adam asked his girlfriend Jacquelyn to marry him.

Over the past five months since Christmas break, this story has been told many times in Chattanooga, Fayetteville and Texas. My family was so impressed with what we experienced at the aquarium that we have spread the good news of Chattanooga to many people.

This young man Tim Martin is impressive — and Chattanooga is fortunate to have him representing us to our tourists! This type of over-the-top hospitality brings out-of-town guests back. It is also what helps to encourage visitors to spread the good word and encourage their friends and neighbors to make a trip to visit our city.

According to what Barry White, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, told me, we know visitors to Hamilton County generate more than $1.1 billion in economic impact. Wow! Thank you, Tim, for what you do for us — for impacting our visitors in a way that will have them coming back time and time again.

This time of year is when we really kick off the family vacation season in our country — Memorial Day weekend — so please be alert to helping make our out-of-town visitors feel really good about making a trip to visit Chattanooga, using Tim's actions as an example for all of us.

Thank you, Tim Martin!

Jeff DeLoach is the president of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach him at jdeloach@timesfreepress.com.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com