By ZACH HARMUTH
Ellie Chin, CEO of Visit Franklin, will meet with local leaders this week to give them a report on the state of tourism in the county — and their strategy for coming years.
The Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau numbers, released a few weeks ago, show that 1.31 million people visited Williamson County in 2015, a 25 percent increase since 2012. Visit Franklin will present its Four Year Strategic Plan — which it hopes will increase the number of visitors to 2 million per year by 2020 — to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of Franklin on Tuesday and the County Commission on Monday night.
“It is a very aggressive goal,” Chin said on Monday, while giving reporters a sneak peak at her presentation over lunch at Pieology in downtown Franklin.
A driving force for Williamson County tourism is Nashville; hotel rooms are expensive there, and demand is currently outpacing supply. To a certain extent, that helps Williamson County.
“We are 20 minutes south of Nashville, we love working with Nashville and we see business out of Nashville because it is a booming city, but they are building more hotel rooms, and when that happens they are going to fill their rooms before it compresses out to Brentwood and Franklin,” Chin said.
In the coming years, according to Chin, some 6,000 additional rooms will be available in Nashville.
“Six months ago we began studying to answer that question of: as our hotel rooms open and Nashville’s hotel rooms open, and things start to change and shift, how are we going to stand on our own two feet?”
“We love Nashville, but we want to have our own identity, too.”
Thus, the four year plan. Several strategic concepts, they believe, will get the county to its goal of 2 million visitors in 2020.
- Maximize the effectiveness of the Williamson County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s strategy and branding to drive visitor spending.
“There are so many different ways to promote and market and we want to make sure we are focused on the best way to reach our markets- we want the day trippers and we want the folks who will come and stay in the hotels,” Chin said.
Williamson County, with $410.69 million economic impact from tourism, ranked sixth in the state in 2015 in tourism dollars by county, behind only mostly urban counties in Davidson, Shelby, Sevier, Hamilton and Knox.
- Assume a leadership role and be a key CVB partner in Middle Tennessee and beyond.
By 2020, they plan to expand the WCCVB role on two regional committees and create a minimum of two new major partnership opportunities.
- Promote Williamson County as a premier destination for youth and amateur sporting events regionally and nationally.
For each athlete in a tournament, 2.5 people on average come with them, said Chin. So it is large driver of visitor spending. The uncertain future of A-Game as a venue has hurt this, she said, but the ongoing study by the county-formed Sports Authority, will provide some answers for how to work on this goal, Chin said.
- Educate the community on the importance and impact of tourism.
Visit Franklin has plans to add 500 new local hospitality employees and other people whom visitors may encounter to its Ambassador Program by 2020. The program trains people to be aware and helpful to visitors asking questions, and to promote other local businesses.