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News TDA promotes town as hiker haven

Franklin advertises to hikers and outside markets

The Tourism Development Authority of Franklin recently approved grants that would advertise Franklin in markets outside county limits.

Franklin a hiker’s haven

The Town of Franklin is fast becoming a sanctuary for Appalachian Trail hiker’s passing through it, as tourism development officials have taken steps to cater to their wayward dollars.

In addition to posting hiker-friendly signage along Franklin corridors, the town’s TDA has also approved funding for transporting AT hikers into town, to shops, hotels and outfitters who may get a boost in business from the added traffic.

At their Feb. 19 meeting, TDA members unanimously approved a $7,600 grant request to paint fellow member’s Ron Haven’s “Hiker’s Bus,” which he uses to pick up hikers in need of a lift to town, where they can get their shopping done. The paint job was intended to make the bus more recognizable to hikers, and draw their attention toward it and its advertisers. Haven said that he did not participate in the discussion, nor did he vote on the matter.

“The bus takes hikers into town and to different spots,” said TDA member Pam Foreshee. “We actually got the grant request last year, but was just finally approved it unanimously.”

Haven said that hiker dollars provide a substantial contribution to Franklin’s market. “These people are putting between 500 to 1,000 dollars a piece into our economy,” said Haven. “It’s really impressive.” He then recalled seeing one hiker in particular spending over $1,000 for supplies at a local business last week.

TDA Chairman Candy Arvey noted that ten hikers were checked into the Microtel at the time of the meeting.

Jim Dog, a hiker from Salt Lake City, and Ron Haven, TDA member, stand before his “Hiker’s Bus” which was recently renovated. Photo by Vickie Carpenter“Hikers are really enjoying it,” Haven said, thanking Franklin Body Shop for a “great” job on painting the bus. “It’s a prize to bringing people into Franklin.” Haven said that the grant helped pay for bus renovation fees, which he asserted were costly. Renovation itself took six months to complete, he added. “I have spent in excess of $10,000 in fuel in one season.”

To offset the cost of fuel prices, as well as further the goal of bringing tourists into Franklin, Haven said that he sells local businesses advertisement space throughout the bus for a negotiable fee that depends on the businesses’ size and the space available.

The road signs marking Franklin as an AT hiker-friendly destination can be found aside U.S. 64 West, Highlands Road along U.S. 64 East, U.S. 28 North, 441 South, old U.S. 64 and 441 North. The town paid for four of the signs, and received two free-of-charge from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, according to Town Planner Michael Grubermann. “We wanted to put the signs along all of the major routes into town,” he said.

Tourism advertisements

Last month, the TDA budgeted $75,000 for tourism advertisement, which would pay for television commercial spots on cable operator Comcast.

Out of that allotment, $7,750 was approved unanimously to fund the two websites. The approximate cost to run the television commercials will be around $50,000. “We have to produce a commercial, and actually have it filmed, and that’s going to cost about $8,000,” said Foreshee. $58,000 to fund the commercial development.

The two websites are www.discoverfranklin.com and www.shopfranklinfirst.com. Ron Winecoff suggested the TDA try such marketing strategies for one year, and observe the results.


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