City’s “Tourist of the Week” Program Greeted Visitors for 12 Years

In June 1962, the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce kicked off its first “Tourist of the Week” program, aimed at making out-of-state tourists motoring through the city keenly aware of the many amenities offered to them. 

Each Thursday beginning in June and extending for 13 consecutive weeks, the Chamber surprised travelers by stopping them and inviting them to became guests of the city for 24 hours. Many of these sojourners thought they were about to receive a traffic citation. A committee determined in advance which state would be targeted each week. The members then solicited the help of one or two policemen to patrol the highways in quest of a vehicle bearing license tags from that state.

The seemingly simple plan was not without problems. Often those selected could not participate due to time constraints and had to decline the city’s bighearted offer. The C of C persisted in searching for candidates until they located people who had the time to stay over for a full day. It was common for police to flag down several dozen cars before finding a family who could participate in the offer. 

Those fortunate folks with time on their hands were rewarded with an eventful and interesting 24 hours at the expense of the Chamber. Those who had to decline the invitation were not summarily dismissed; instead, they were informed of the program, given literature about the city and region and invited to return to Johnson City at a future date.

 The day’s festivities began with newspaper, radio and television interviews. The guests of honor were then driven to a motel or hotel where they were presented with a complimentary room. After that, they were carted off for an enjoyable lunch at one of Johnson City’s fine restaurants.

After the meal, the agenda called for a tour of historical, recreational and scenic points of interest throughout the area. That evening, the honorees became guests of the city and were greeted by city and Chamber leaders. During this time, they received honorary certificates of citizenship and several gifts that were native to the area. After a full day of activities, the weary guests were escorted back to their hotel or motel for a night of rest. The following morning they were taken to breakfast and then sent on toward their destination.

In 1971, the Chamber made two significant changes to the “Tourist of the Week” program. The first was to modify the stay-over requirements from 24 hours to three or four hours. The second was to select from two to four carloads of people instead of just one. These adjustments allowed more people to participate in the program and significantly reduced the time and labor requirements by city personnel. At the end of the 13 weeks that year, the Chamber of Commerce had hosted an impressive 78 tourists from 13 different states.

As an added bonus, visitors were later mailed complete copies of the Johnson City Press-Chronicle that contained the article describing their selection and visit and a photograph of them in their automobile. A further benefit was that copies of the newspaper were sent to the tourists’ hometown newspaper, often resulting in additional interviews when they returned home.

Over the years, the response to the “Tourist” event was overwhelming. The files of the Chamber of Commerce became filled with letters of appreciation from grateful honorees. For these people, it was a never-to-be-forgotten once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After the 1973 season was concluded, the “Tourist of the Week” program was cancelled after an 11-year run and faded into yesteryear.