Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tennessee Gets Serious About Sustainability

I spoke this week at a Sustainable Tourism Workshop in Memphis, Tenn. It was one of four Sustainable Tourism Workshops held this year throughout the state. The workshops were organized by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The workshops are part of the education and outreach component of Tennessee's Sustainable Tourism Initiative and focus on sustainable tourism best practices, sustainable resources, and green products.

At the Memphis workshop, I had an opportunity to meet Susan Whitaker, Tennessee's Commissioner of Tourist Development. Tennessee is fortunate to have such an energetic champion of sustainability. Susan was appointed to her post in 2003 and then reappointed in 2007. Thanks to Susan and others like her, Tennessee is miles ahead of most states when it comes to sustainable tourism development.

I first learned about Tennessee's sustainability initiatives in 2008 when the Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit was announced. It was held in April in Knoxville that year and drew dignitaries such as Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander. I highly recommend checking out the Tennesse Sustainable Tourism website. The site does a great job summarizing Tennessee's sustainable tourism efforts and includes case studies and videos of previous webinars and other events.

What has made Tennessee's initiative a success so far is the buy-in of so many different organizations representing government and the private sector. Officials in Tennessee also recognize the importance of agritourism, rural tourism and the preservation of historical places in their overall sustainability planning.

In the lodging sector, there are many sustainability stories to tell: a LEED-pursuing Hilton Garden Inn in Gatlinburg, the Hutton Hotel and Opryland Hotel in Nashville, and a new LaQuinta Inn & Suites in the Memphis area that will incorporate solar and wind technologies.

Is what your state is doing comparable to that of Tennessee? I will look forward to your comments.

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