Tennessee targeting Hispanic population as tourists
By TRAVIS LOLLER
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee’s tourism department began advertising in Spanish-language newspapers for the first time this year and plans to roll out a Spanish version of its Web site by the end of the month.
“The idea is to be all inclusive,” said Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, a spokeswoman for the department. “We have multiple cultures — the census tells us that — and we know (Hispanic) culture is part of our potential market.”
Tennessee’s $13.4 billion tourism industry is growing, Qualls-Brooks said. The industry has seen a $1 billion increase for each of the past two years, according to the Travel Industry Association of America, but the state does not measure how much Hispanics, or any other specific group, are contributing to that.
The department is advertising in four Spanish-language newspapers that have a combined circulation of about 85,500 in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville.
But the ads, which feature a Hispanic family on an outing to an aquarium, will also run in rotation with other ads in national magazines that are not part of the ethnic press, Qualls-Brooks said.
Ramon Cisneros, president of the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said he applauds the efforts to attract Hispanic tourists to the state.
“It’s good for people to understand that not all Hispanics are below the poverty line,” he said. “There are Hispanic doctors and professionals in almost every field, and these people go on vacation and spend money.
“Tourist meccas like Las Vegas and Orlando spend a lot of money to advertise to the Hispanic community.”
Yuri Cunza, president of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the tourism invitation should come with a warning — bring the proper documentation or you could wind up in jail.
The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office instituted a program earlier this year designed to make sure illegal immigrants who commit crimes are jailed and deported. But those crimes can include minor traffic infractions, and Cunza said Hispanic visitors who are not carrying the proper identification could face problems, even if they are in the country legally.
“It’s fun to come to Tennessee,” he said, “but because of the new law enforcement program they should advise travelers who are foreign to be sure to have the proper ID or else they’re sending people into the cave of the wolves.”
Qualls-Brooks disagreed, saying it was “not an issue.”
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Published in The Messenger 10.18.07