Discovery Park of America, one of the largest attractors for tourism in this region, was the location of the Tourism Works for West Tennessee Summit held Tues., Sept. 24.
A reception for attendees took place on Monday evening at Blue Bank Resort.
The event was organized by State Representative Mark White; Rob Mortensen, president of the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association; Marty Marbry, West Tennessee division manager of the Tennessee Department of Tourism; Lindsay Frilling, CEO at Obion County Joint Economic Development Council; and Scott Williams, president and CEO of Discovery Park of America.
Around 100 attendees participated in the event that included those in tourism and government interested in working together to increase revenue from tourism for rural communities.
Panelists included Colleen Coury, public affairs coordinator with the State of Tennessee Department of Agriculture; Mark Ezell, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development; and Sammie Arnold, assistant commissioner of community and rural development for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum joined organizers Mortensen and Marbry in moderating the panel.
Williams led a breakout session in which attendees worked in teams to answer questions relating to the challenges of growing tourism in northwest Tennessee and how we should go about doing it.
During the panel discussion, Commissioner Ezell pointed out that investing in tourism pays off in additional sales tax and other revenues for rural communities. Mortensen agreed sharing a metaphor featuring sunflowers. He said if you have a bag of sunflowers, you can eat them and they are gone, or you can plant them and grow more sunflowers.
Sponsors of the event included Discovery Park of America, the University of Tennessee at Martin, the West Tennessee Economic Development Caucus, the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Leadership Tennessee, the Northwest Tennessee Development District, the Southwest Tennessee Development District, the Memphis Area Association of Governments and the Northwest Tennessee Tourism Association.