Seventh generation Tennessean Mark Ezell assumed the role of Commissioner of the Department of Tourist Development this week. Ezell will build on the state’s global success in tourism with a data-led approach, emphasizing what makes Tennessee unique.
“It is truly a dream to serve Tennessee in this role,” said Ezell. “The impact of travel is felt throughout this state, from our biggest cities to our most rural communities. I look forward to working with our partners to foster new opportunities to increase travel, and ultimately, build better opportunities for our citizens.”
Previously, Ezell was a senior executive with Dean Foods where he focused on brand development for Purity Dairies and other southeast dairies. Ezell spearheaded philanthropic efforts to create the Purity Foundation and other Middle Tennessee efforts like the successful Moosic City Dairy Dash. He is a nationally-recognized brand developer who coordinated the creation and implementation of the iconic “Milk Mustache – Got Milk?” campaign. His 35 years at Purity Dairies, including time as president and general manager, helped the former family-owned company receive recognition as a “Brands That Built Nashville” winner from the Nashville American Advertising Federation.
Tourism is the No. 2 industry in the state behind agriculture. Tennessee tourism’s direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached an all-time record high of $20.7 billion in 2017, a 6.3 percent increase over the prior year, as reported by the U.S. Travel Association. A record 113.6 million person stays were also recorded in 2017, making Tennessee a top 10 travel state for the fourth consecutive year, according to D.K. Shifflet.