After only ten weeks on the job, Tennessee's new Tourism Commissioner is traveling across the state on a listening tour learning how the department can better serve communities.
Commissioner Kevin Triplett was in Smithville Wednesday afternoon to meet with local government, business, and community leaders at the county complex.
"It's exciting. It's an honor to be in this role. It's been about ten weeks and I've been on the road around the state more than I have been in Nashville but I'm okay with that because we have a tremendous amount of assets here in the State of Tennessee and you get more excited when you see them first hand. The fun thing about it is educating other people and promoting what we have here. It is like mining for gold. We have gold all over the state when it comes to tourism. It's just a matter of exposing people to that," he said.
"Tourism is the second biggest industry in the State of Tennessee at $17 billion a year and it goes hand in hand with economic development. It is a great time in the State of Tennessee. More than two thirds of our counties were up last year in tourism dollars. Our top counties all broke records. It is a phenomenal time. Visitors are coming from all over," said Commissioner Triplett.
To better serve tourists, steps are being taken to upgrade technology at the state's welcome centers. "We've spent a lot of time in my ten weeks doing research on who are our visitors? Where are they coming from? The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development runs the welcome centers around the state. TDOT maintains the outside and we manage the inside. And to a large extent, the very first persons that many of these visitors ever talk to in the State of Tennessee are our workers in the welcome centers. We average between 12 and 13 million people a year coming through those welcome centers and it may be closer to 15 million (considering multiplying factors). But it wasn't until three weeks ago that we were collecting information on those visitors. We now have Wi-Fi at all our welcome centers. We're capturing information from our guests. We have surveys. We're asking them who they are, where they are coming from, where they are going, if we can contact them later, and did they enjoy their trip here?. Not only do we want them to come to Tennessee but we want them to come back and if there is anything that makes them answer the question we don't think we'll come back, we want to know why. We want to fix that," said Commissioner Triplett.
"We're doing things strategically with our website, Facebook, instagram and all these other social media channels now. The technology is so broad. Who are our users? What are they looking for? And what do they want during their time in Tennessee? Two things we try to do in the department is get people to Tennessee and inspire them to enjoy their time here," he said.
"We are a service department. We want to serve you (communities). You are our customers, our partners. You are the people on the ground. The people at our welcome centers are our front lines. When people come to the welcome centers they (employees) are the front line of Tennessee for information and perception is given or taken from those visits to the welcome centers. It's the same thing with our partners out in the field. It's you who are out there dealing with the customers and visitors. Our guests. We want to know how we can serve you," said Commissioner Triplett.
Triplett, 49, is the former vice president of public affairs for Bristol Motor Speedway. Prior to joining BMS in 2005, he worked in various roles for NASCAR, ultimately serving as managing director of business operations, guiding the operation and administration of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series, and Camping World Truck Series. He has twice been named one of NASCAR’s “25 Most Influential” by The Charlotte Observer.
From 1992 until 1994, Triplett represented General Motors Parts (GM Goodwrench and AC Delco) in NASCAR, specifically Richard Childress Racing and Ken Schrader Racing and their drivers, including Dale Earnhardt. Prior to his NASCAR tenure, he covered sports for the Bristol Herald Courier and The Gaston Gazette in North Carolina.
He is a graduate of East Tennessee State University and has served on the boards of a number of community organizations including Birthplace of Country Music, Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau, Rotary Club of Bristol, ETSU at Bristol Advisory Council, Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association, and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Also a farmer, Triplett is a member of the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association.
Triplett and his wife, Jill, live in Bristol with their two children, Lucas and Sarah Grace.
(PICTURED ABOVE: Jack Barton, County Commissioner and Coordinator of the Fiddlers Jamboree & Crafts Festival; Lee Curtis, Director of Program Development and Legislative Liaison; Ruth Dyal, Executive Director of the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association; Suzanne Williams, Executive Director of the Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce, Commissioner Kevin Triplett of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development; County Mayor Tim Stribling; State Senator Mae Beavers; State Representative Mark Pody; and Rob Sherrill, Special Projects Manager of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.)