Committee Background

Shortly after Governor Haslam’s inauguration on January 15th 2011, Susan Whitaker was retained as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. Governor Haslam also announced the formation and leadership of a statewide Tourism Committee chaired by Colin Reed, Chairman, President and CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc. (formerly Gaylord Entertainment), and co-chaired by Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. and Ted Miller, President of  Dolly Parton Productions. “Tennessee tourism has taken many positive strides during Susan’s tenure as commissioner, and I am delighted to have her stay on as head of the department,” Governor Haslam said. “I’m also gratified that Colin Reed, Jack Soden and Ted Miller – three giants of the nationwide tourism industry – have agreed to lend their expertise to taking Tennessee tourism to a new level.”

Since Governor Haslam appointed the committee and its Chair and Co-Chairs, the Tennessee Tourism Committee held its first meeting at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center on September 30, 2011. Since that time, the committee met every three to four months across the state. At each meeting, the committee held Open Forums for the public to weigh-in on Tennessee tourism and its direction. After several research studies and an unprecedented sharing of visitor information, the committee delivered it’s first report, titled, “A Roadmap for Jobs, Tax Revenue & Economic Growth,” to Governor Haslam in January 2013. This led to Governor Haslam pledging an additional $8-million to promote the state beyond its borders under the condition that the committee prepares a ten-year strategic plan for tourism.

At the 2013 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Tourism in September, the committee presented the strategic plan to the industry. The plan was widely accepted by both the industry and Governor Haslam, and the committee is now in the execution phase of the plan. For more details of the plan, please click here. For a copy of the committee’s first report and the strategic plan, please contact the committee here.