Tennessean Susan Whitaker Named State Tourism Director Of The Year

Monday, August 19, 2013

Susan Whitaker, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, has been named the State Tourism Director of the Year.

The award is voted upon annually by the U.S. Travel Association’s National Council of State Tourism Directors. Ms. Whitaker was announced as the winner before about 600 of her peers Monday at the ESTO conference of tourism professionals in Richmond, Va.

“Susan is a wonderful representative for Tennessee. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her on any number of critical travel issues and always appreciate her insight,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Susan gets it. She appreciates the power of travel to benefit communities, businesses and individuals. This tremendous recognition by Susan’s peers reflects her passion for travel, and I know we all look forward to her many future contributions.”

Ms. Whitaker’s selection drew immediate praise from top dignitaries in her home state.

“This honor is well-deserved,” said Governor Bill Haslam. “Susan and her staff bring innovative ideas and vision to Tennessee’s thriving tourism industry, and the accomplishments under her leadership will have a lasting impact on Tennessee."

“Susan is not only a friend of mine but she’s one of the best friends that our Tennessee tourism industry has ever known,” said entertainer Dolly Parton, formerly Ms. Whitaker’s boss at Dollywood, Tennessee’s most-visited tourist attraction. “Susan makes sure that the welcome mat is always out for folks who want to visit our great state, and I appreciate her enthusiasm, dedication, and get-it-done attitude!”

Ms. Whitaker’s major accomplishments for Tennessee include the launch of the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program which features 16 comprehensive, statewide trails in all of Tennessee’s 95 counties and along the state’s five National Scenic Byways. As the co-chairwoman of Tennessee’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, Ms. Whitaker is a strategic part of the planning and overseeing of Tennessee’s 150th Civil War commemoration, including the launch of the Tennessee Civil War Trails Program. Ms. Whitaker launched Tennessee’s Sustainable Tourism initiative with the 2008 Great Smoky Mountain Sustainable Tourism Summit, positioning the state as a national leader in sustainable tourism.

The STDOTY award is given to the professional whose leadership has led to the measurable improvement of his or her state’s travel and tourism profile. Each year, such success is measured in relationship to the budgetary and staff resources that the director has at their disposal.

Candidates are nominated by other state/territory tourism directors and a slate of three finalists is presented for selection by ballot.

Ms. Whitaker is the third Tennessean to win the award since its founding in 1970, following Tom Jackson in 1978 and Sandra Fulton in 1993.



Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern Moves For All-New Dread Hollow Experience

Every town has its secrets, even the Best Town Ever. 2017’s Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern, in partnership with Fear Connection, takes visitors to an all-new, 29,000-square-foot location in Lookout Valley to the town of Dread Hollow. The haunt begins  September 29 , and every  Thursday  –  Sunday  through October including Halloween night. Once bound ... (click for more)

Tennessee Airbnb Hosts To Earn At Least $2.6 Million During Eclipse

Home sharing platform Airbnb on Tuesday released new data and "issued a call to action to its host community to help Tennessee take full economic advantage of excitement for the upcoming solar eclipse." At this time, Airbnb projects that the Airbnb host community in Tennessee cities along the path of totality will earn a combined $2.6 million in supplemental income while ... (click for more)

Deborah Cox Of Graysville Dies After Wreck On Jones Gap Road

One person who was in critical condition after a wreck on Jones Gap Road has died. The victim was identified as Deborah Cox, of Graysville, Tn.  Hamilton County Sheriff's deputies, along with HCEMS and fire personnel, worked the accident near the 13,300 block of Jones Gap Road. Due to the crash, north and southbound Jones Gap Road were closed for a lengthy ... (click for more)

Excitement Builds As Tennessee Valley Prepares For Monday's Eclipse

Sandra Nicholson, director of the Edu-Care Daycare Center on Signal Mountain, is as ready for  Monday’s  historic solar eclipse as she’s ever going to be. It took some doing, she said, but she has finally enough pairs of NASA-certified solar safety glasses for everyone in her family.  She’s just one of the tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley area residents ... (click for more)

Mayor Invites Civil War II - And Response (18)

I just received an email from the Mayor stating that he filed paperwork to remove the city of Chattanooga as the trustee for the Confederate Cemetery on Third Street. I understand the Mayor's intent was to distance the city from it's racist past and subsequent hate, but I feel like this is an interesting move without much thought of the consequences. The Mayor prefaced his ... (click for more)

Berke Plan To Solve Discrimination Is To Kick Dead Veterans To The Curb

Racism and discrimination is wrong. What is the best way for a parent to teach a child the evils of discrimination? Should the parent demonstrate and repetitively incentivize the proper behavior? Or, would it be more productive to badger the child over and over again for the sins of the child's g-g-g-grandfather who died 150 years ago? Would burning the personal effects of the grandfather ... (click for more)