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With its scenic countryside, historic sites, and thriving restaurant and retail scene, Williamson County has long been a magnet for visitors. Now, with an expanding roster of hotel and other overnight-stay properties, the county aims to keep more guests a little longer.
When it opens in 2012, the new Drury Plaza Hotel in Franklin will join the Marriott, Embassy Suites and Aloft properties as high-end accommodations in the county. Meanwhile, bed-and-breakfast properties like Butterfly Meadows add to the mix of options for guests looking to stop and stay a while.
More visitors means more opportunity to share community pride, but even better, they bring more tax revenue to the area, which in turn can be used to maintain and increase amenities for its residents.
Growing Tourism Destination
Williamson County is now No. 6 in the state for tourism spending, a jump of two spots in the last four years. In the same time, tourism traffic to the county’s visitor center has grown 132 percent, and is seeing an almost 10-to-1 return on its investment in a greatly expanded Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“We are adding about 10 percent to our hotel inventory this year, which will give us around 3,500 beds,” says Mark Shore, executive director of the Williamson CVB. “Now we’re working to make sure that both our new and existing hotels have all the support they need so that everyone stays on an even keel while all this expansion is going on.”
The Drury, like other properties, markets the county as much as the hotel itself in its advertising materials, so the CVB is benefiting from additional outreach for events, Civil War historic destinations and more. Shore says he expects to build on that trend as the county becomes an overnight and weekend destination for large groups and other tourist sectors that may have visited before, but only for the day. To that end, the CVB will be working to effectively use a portion of the lodging tax that is set aside for tourism marketing and promotion.
“We had a task force in 2006 and 2007 that made three recommendations, one of which was to reorganize the CVB as an independent organization so that it could move in the marketplace very quickly,” Shore says. “That has allowed us to make decisions and respond to our tourism-related properties’ concerns much quicker. It also led to strong strategic and marketing plans, which have really helped us stay focused not only on what we would do, but what we wouldn’t do, to grow our tourism industry.”
The CVB’s goal going forward will be to continue to grow overnight-stay properties, but also boost destination retail, restaurant and historic sites so that the Williamson County becomes an all-inclusive destination for both family and group travelers.
“We have really grown our role in helping the various tourism-related businesses here, and those that want to come, identify what will be a good fit for the area,” Shore says. “We can help them work through what is a great idea, as well as what might not be exactly right for Williamson County. Our businesses really want to hear our thoughts, so we look forward to continuing to deepen those relationships.”
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