SMOKE & CINDERS (4TH QUARTER 2017) – BEING IN SELECT COMPANY – TVRM JOINS THE SHA
TVRM Joins the Elite League of Southern Highlands Attractions
The Southern Highlands Attractions (SHA) is a prestigious group of travel attractions that dot the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains. Home to some of the finest tourist destinations, the group boasts of members such as the Biltmore Estate, Shenandoah Caverns, The Blowing Rock, Rock City, and Ruby Falls. Membership to this elite club is strictly by invitation, and an organization must meet certain criteria like a minimum number of years in operation and an annual paid attendance of at least 50,000.
As of early 2016, the SHA comprised 18 member attractions spread across Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. It was during this time that the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) received an invitation of interest from the SHA. Needless to say, TVRM was both humbled and honored to be considered for this exclusive membership.
An initial visit was carried out by the SHA Membership Committee in March, followed by a meeting of all member organizations at TVRM during the SHA’s Fall Meeting in September. After the deliberations, TVRM was unanimously voted in as the 19th member attraction, an offer that was gladly accepted.
Membership in the SHA carries several benefits. It lends an additional level of credibility to TVRM, enhancing its reputation and profile. Member organizations are also obligated to promote and recommend other SHA attractions through web links and brochure exchanges. Consequently, references to the SHA and its members can now be found on the TVRM website and at the Grand Junction Depot.
Another significant advantage is the opportunity for TVRM management to attend meetings focusing on best practices in areas pertinent to tourist attractions. In the past, TVRM has gained valuable insights on master planning from PGAV Destinations, a globally recognized attraction and exhibit design firm, and learnt about customer service and employee engagement programs from Biltmore Estates.
However, the benefits are not without challenges. SHA maintains a stringent quality control mechanism through secret shopper calls and on-site visits. This ensures that all members, including TVRM, consistently deliver high-quality customer service, maintain up-to-date facilities, and offer an outstanding overall experience for guests. The reports of these secret shopper visits are shared among all members, creating a sense of accountability.
In its first year of SHA membership, TVRM has already reaped significant benefits, and the staff and officers eagerly look forward to being part of the group for many more years to come. TVRM is ready to face the challenges that come with growth. The ultimate goal is to be a better organization, delivering unforgettable experiences to passengers, and preserving the region’s rich railroad history.