THE BEAUTY of tourism, according to Daniel Berry of South Central Tennessee Tourism Agency (SCTTA), Shelbyville’s newest addition to the marketing and tourism team, is that the dollars it brings originate from other communities. Tourism rarely stresses infrastructure yet it greatly boosts the local economy by supporting sales tax revenue and locally-owned businesses. Tourism is a win-win that benefits residents, local businesses, and tourists. Tourists who have their expectations met or exceeded help to market the area on social media.
What does it take to increase tourism? Think of the regions that are well-known for tourism and what they offer. Commonalities include a consistently welcoming environment, well-kept and tidy streets, attractive storefronts, unique shopping opportunities, excellent restaurants appealing to a wide array of dining options, engaging festivals and events, and a variety of activities suitable for all ages and interests.
Many small-town businesses already practice the art of referral as part of their customer service. They know that telling a customer of their antique store about another great antique store across the street or their favorite local restaurant will provide visitors an exceedingly positive experience that encourages them to stay in town longer. People who have a great experience will post their pictures on social media, promoting the area as well as returning for future great experiences.
Tourism is the second largest industry in the State of Tennessee according to tn.gov. Almost half of the tax revenue raised through tourism directly supports local school sys- tems. It is estimated on tn.gov that tourism tax revenue saved each household in the state $748 in taxes in 2019.
John F. Kennedy is credited with first say- ing, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” supporting the idea that when an economy is doing well, all businesses and people in a community can benefit. There are already tens of thousands of cars driving through Shelbyville on their way to Jack Daniels and other tourist activities in the region. Encouraging some of those people to stop in Bedford County and explore the many opportunities to eat, play, and stay helps your neighbors and fellow citizens grow their businesses and have great employment close to home.
Do you know the number one route to get to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery is through Shelbyville? The world-famous distillery has embraced the Nearest Green story as the slave who taught Jack Daniels how to brew and distill exceptional whiskey. Additionally, Rutherford County is one of the fastest-growing regions in Tennessee. A short trip to Shelbyville from Murfreesboro for dinner out is accessible even for a weeknight.
Residents of Bedford County have a special role to play in supporting the growth of regional tourism. You know the area and the places you love to visit. Learn about your community and the wonderful, unique attributes it possesses. Share the good things that are happening in your community with your neighbors and also your out-of-town friends and family. This can include sharing posts on social media or contacting an out-of- town friend to let them know when the horse show is coming.
When you are out in public you might have an opportunity to be a Bed- ford County ambassador and speak with a visitor. Show some of the southern, small-town warmth and hospitality the area is known for. Ask the tourist a few friendly questions and find out what they like to do. Share ideas about additional places or activities they might enjoy in the region. -GN