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Now, more than ever before, international visitors are traveling to Tennessee. In fact, in 2017, Tennessee was the fastest-growing state in the country for international travel.

What’s Bringing Them Here?

Is it the outdoor recreation? The food and drinks? Dollywood? Kevin Triplett, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, says it goes beyond those elements.

“International visitors want authenticity. They want America, and you can’t get much more American than Tennessee,” he said. “They love what we have to offer, and we’re authentic, genuine and real.”

Commissioner Triplett shared these insights and more at the American Marketing Association Knoxville’s December luncheon as he detailed how his team markets the state to an international audience. Thanks to their efforts, travelers are coming here for longer and spending more, contributing greatly to the overall economy (a whopping $1.83 billion in state and local sales tax revenue).

Building a State Brand

Maintaining brand consistency is essential to any marketing campaign, and it’s no different for marketing the state of Tennessee to the world. So, the Department of Tourist Development worked to develop a brand that exudes the heart and soul of our state.

“Music is in our DNA in Tennessee,” the commissioner explained to a crowd of Knoxville-area marketers. “Seven genres of music call Tennessee home. No other state can claim that.”

And thus, the “The Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.” brand was born.

Utilizing the Brand

At the luncheon, Commissioner Triplett detailed one of the most recent international marketing campaigns developed by his team.

Last year, British Airways announced the first nonstop flight between Nashville and London, which is expected to significantly boost international tourism as well as business opportunities in Tennessee.

In order to drive UK visitors to Tennessee, the Department of Tourist Development held a month-long marketing campaign using an impressive installation at London’s popular Waterloo train station. “Sights & Sounds of Tennessee” included a giant map of the state and headphones to listen to music recordings and other sounds one can experience only in Tennessee.

Using their mobile devices, visitors also accessed corresponding websites offering 360-degree videos of the Great Smoky Mountains or popular music venues in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville, virtually transporting themselves to Tennessee.


The Waterloo installation was just one piece of the larger campaign in support of the “The Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.” brand that included advertising across London. Campaign creative included notable Tennessee music destinations such as Ryman Auditorium, Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the historic Tennessee Theatre, promoting the British Airways flight to Nashville and encouraging British travelers to learn more about vacation opportunities across the entire state.

The team at the Department of Tourist Development is constantly developing unique marketing tactics like the Waterloo installation, including concerts promoted entirely through Snapchat and the “Tennessee Music Pathways” tourism development project. However, Commissioner Tripplet said it’s sometimes more than a marketing plan.

“It’s who we are. It’s what we have. It’s why you should come here.”

Photos and videos courtesy of tnvacation.com. 

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