On Friday morning, a group of local business leaders listened as an expert on Williamson County tourism spoke at E Spaces in Cool Springs.

Ellie Chin, founder of VisitFranklin.com, has grown her company into the premiere marketer of the county as whole.

Each year, 1.22 million out-of-towners leave local businesses, restaurants and stores $407 million richer than before their visit. What that really comes down to, though, is about $475 per capita in the county in taxes that don’t have to come out of our pockets each year, according to Chin’s presentation.

The benefit is twofold, too, because those tourists create a need for hospitality jobs, of which there are 3,000 in Williamson County.

Making the area a destination has been Chin’s mission. Since 2010 the tourist money has increased by more than $100 million. VisitFranklin and its expert use of social media have helped drive the increase.

“The major markets where tourists are coming here from, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York- we can’t advertise in these markets” she said. “It is too costly.”

But after finding that 82 percent of people visit more than two webites before picking their destination, she said, that is where VisitFranklin focused its goal.

“Social media is key- that is where we can compete,” she said.

In recent year VisitFranklin increased its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest following several times over.

And, Chin said, they did it by doing several things:

-“Listen First”

Listen to what your potential consumers want.

-“Be Authentic”

Be human, Chin said, not a logo.

-Be accesible

-Always be planning

Set ambitious goals, but be flexible enough to change them based on feedback.13346508_1200286813338008_8611285884710065899_n

State of the county

VisitFranklin expects tourism to continue increasing, but the game has changed.

“It used to be, a new attraction could carry you for 10 years, but now because of social media it is like they see it and tomorrow will be asking, what do you have for me today?” Chin said.

Here are some of the developments in the past year to Williamson County:

HOTELS

– In 2015 two new hotels opened in Williamson County

  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton

– In the next two years, five more hotels are scheduled to complete construction, adding nearly 800 additional rooms.

  • Harpeth Square (115 rooms)
  • Hilton Homewood Suites (145 rooms)
  • Hilton Garden Inn (124 rooms)
  • Hampton Inn & Suites (124 rooms)
  • Meridian Hilton Hotel (244 rooms)

A FEW OF THE TOURISM RELATED ATTRACTIONS ADDED IN 2015 (non-restaurants)

  • SOAR Adventure Tower
  • King’s Bowl
  • Tractor Supply Arena (home to the only polo arena in TN)
  • FanFest Comics, home of the Walker Stalker podcast and conventions.
  • Ravenwood Mansion
  • The Old, Old Jail in Downtown Franklin
  • Carter Hill Battlefield Park acquisition
  • Pilgrimage Music Festival

ATTRACTIONS COMING SOON

  • WSM Radio Tower will be open to group tours for the first time in its storied history.
  • Leiper’s Fork Distillery, opens this summer

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