Tourism shifts into high gear
Posted: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 7:00 pm
By: Joe Edwards, Associated Press
By JOE EDWARDS
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Dollywood has a new roller coaster. Elvis has a different side to see. And you can prepare to take a nip at the Jack Daniel distillery.
Those are just three of the lures this year as Tennessee’s summer tourism season gets under way.
The peak of the travel year falls as gasoline prices are high, but going down. For the state’s busy $14 billion tourism industry, which employs more than 170,000, there are signs that business is picking up.
The sprawling Great Smoky Mountains National Park already is seeing a 15 percent increase in visitors over last year. With 9 million visitors annually, it’s the most popular national park.
Andrew Kean, president and COO of the highly promoted Rock City atop Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, says gas prices have had little impact on his attraction.
“I think for us, the additional expense for visitors from Atlanta, Nashville and Birmingham is in the $10 to $20 range over two fill ups,” he said.
Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge has a new roller coaster to go with its four others. The Wild Eagle is 21 stories high and goes 61 mph in each 2 1/2 minute ride. But don’t look for Dolly Parton, the park’s namesake, to hop aboard.
“You’re not gonna see me on it,” she says in a defiant nod to her nerves.
If Pigeon Forge visitors tire of the nearby mountains and Dollywood, there’s always shopping: The town boasts of having more than 300 outlet and specialty shops.
In Memphis, Graceland is offering visitors a new perspective of Elvis: Just opened is the Elvis Presley Stable Tour displaying saddles used by Elvis, personal western wear and home movie footage of the king of rock ‘n’ roll on horseback.
For the first time, visitors can sample Jack Daniel whiskey on tours at the Lynchburg distillery under plans being fine-tuned. It was outlawed until recent legislation authorized it.
Dollywood, Elvis, Jack Daniel distillery, Tennessee, Tourism