Friday, August 27, 2010

Governors Conference on Tourism by John Dersham

Governors Conference on Tourism

Last week I attended the 40th Annual Governors Conference. This year it was at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery. Every year the Alabama Travel Council Inc. and the Alabama Department of Tourism host this great annual event. Attendees represent individuals whom make their living in the tourism industry throughout our state.
The primary function is to learn what is going on in our industry, nationally and in Alabama. We have guest speakers from all over the US who teach us the latest in tourism marketing and advertising. We get updates on how each area of Alabama is doing this year. We get to network with others and get great ideas to bring home with us. Some of our guest speakers this year were:

* Roger Dow-President of U.S Travel Association- Roger is the official face of tourism for the U.S. He can be seen regularly on network and cable news.
*Lee Sentell- State Director of Tourism and Travel - Lee unveiled the marketing and advertising plan for 2011 with a recap of this year. Lee and the Alabama Department of Tourism have won multiple prestigious nationwide tourism awards for their “Year of“ programs such as: Year of Small Towns and Downtowns (this year), Year of Alabama History, and Year of Alabama Arts. There have been eight such themed “Year of” programs all focusing on one aspect of our great state. Next year will be the Year of Alabama Music.
* David Bronner - CEO Retirement Systems of Alabama and the owner of Renaissance Hotels, Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and 46 television stations in 13 states.
*Legislative Update with Representatives Craig Ford, David Grimes, Johnny Mack Morrow, Cam Ward, Richard Lindsey and Senators Lowell Barron, Wendell Mitchell and Del Marsh. Each Legislator updated us on issues and legislation concerning tourism related subjects. The primary legislative issues tourism is interested in are; Later School Start Date and regulated, taxed Gambling. Passage of each would generate more tourism to Alabama and more money to the general fund of Alabama which helps support education.
*Roger Brooks-CEO of Destination Development International - Roger is a leader in developing long term branding for tourist destinations.

In addition to a great three days of continuing education concerning important tourism topics, we had our two gubernatorial candidates speak to us. Dr. Robert Bentley and Ron Sparks took the stage to tell us their platforms and to comment on their position in tourism related legislation. They both agreed that tourism is crucial to the income of Alabama and critical to the state’s general fund. Tourism is the state’s largest employer with nearly 168,000 jobs. Last year tourism brought 9.3 billion dollars in spending to Alabama.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Yard Sale Travelers Love DeKalb County by John Dersham

Last Thursday and Friday I spent most of each day at The World’s Longest Yard Sale. In the last couple years we have been talking to yard sale customers finding out where they are from, how far they are going in the yard sale and why they picked our portion of it. In doing this we learn a lot about our area. We also get the opportunity to give people our travel brochures and tell them all the things we have to do and see in DeKalb County. We invite them to make DeKalb County an overnight stay on their journey and encourage them to come back for a vacation.

This year I talked to people from Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky and of course Alabama. In my rather informal count of out of state plates I found in my couple days we seemed to have the most traffic from Georgia, Florida and Mississippi. I think many people coming up from the gulf start in our area since it is near the beginning entry of the yard sale. The DeKalb County Tourist Association is a key contact for the World’s Longest Yard Sale. Our website is linked to the WLYS and our phone number is given out as a source of information. Due to our high number of calls we get the opportunity to encourage our callers to visit our area for the yard sale. We tell them that we have a lot of yard sale vendors to visit but they also have a scenic venue to enjoy. We explain how the yard sale runs along the 93 mile Lookout Mountain Parkway, passing by Little River Canyon National preserve, DeSoto State Park, waterfalls and Mentone. We tell them about our nearly 150 rental cabins and 9 B&B’s. We tell them about Fort Payne, our hotels and restaurants, shopping, parks and museums.

In speaking with yard sale visitors I found some common reasons they landed in our area. Here are some of the reoccuring responses; scenic beauty, lots of vendors, no big cites with high traffic, lots of places to eat and spend the night. Some other comments came from people who make a vacation out of the yard sale. They have family or friends with them and they enjoy the leisure aspects of our area, such as hiking at DeSoto, taking the Little River Canyon rim drive, stopping at the water falls or milling around Mentone. Several stated they had been to various parts of the yard sale in the past, but were returning here because they like our section the most.

I feel DeKalb County is the ideal setting to combine shopping with vacationing. This is a theme we are trying to promote at the Tourist Information Center. We feel the language of yard sale combined with leisure travel fun, attract people to our area.

The WLYS is big business for DeKalb County. It fills our lodging facilities and restaurants. It brings unusually high sales to our area mini-markets and gas stations. Tourism is clean money that brings great amount of revenue to our county without high costs. Our visitors come and they spend money and add valuable revenue to our County and to our communities without the high cost of providing city and county services. Tourism usually brings quality people with good expendable income. We rarely have tourists committing crime in our area. The yard sale is big business and is very important to our local economy each year.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Collinsville Trade Day by John Dersham

It seems most everyone loves to mill around looking for a particular item they need or want to have. In just a couple weeks thousands of people from all over the USA will descend upon our area for the World’s Longest Yard sale. For us living here in DeKalb County we have something equivalent every week of the year. Every Saturday morning 52 weeks a year from daylight till noon you can shop for your treasures.
Collinsville Trade Day is an entertainment format of its own. People of all ages will find something there to occupy their time. My family loves to go to trade days. My wife, my daughter and granddaughters love the animals. It’s like a petting zoo with everything for sale. There are miniature horses, goats, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, pigs and more dogs and cats of every breed than you can imagine. For the animal lovers there are also the suppliers of cages, leashes, collars, dog clothing and maintenance items. The men in my family usually separate from the women at some point so we can concentrate on our “stuff”. First there is hardware and lots of it. If it’s a tool you will find it there. I like coins. There are a number of coin sellers there every week. The same is true for knives, sports cards and other collectibles. If you want fresh vegetables then you’ve come to the right place. If you like gardening, trees and shrubs you’ll find multiple vendors selling plants. You will find hand made arts and crafts, furniture, antiques, clothing, cosmetics, toys, cd’s, household d├ęcor, and several places to buy food and drinks while you are there. If you liked boiled peanuts you have come to the right place. Do you need fishing or hunting gear then Trade Day is the place.

Collinsville Trade Day is more than just one of the largest outdoor markets in the south; it is an experience all in its own. Even if I had nothing in particular I was interested in looking at, just watching the people scurrying around having a great time is well worth the trip. All age groups are well represented and with that come a great diversity of interests.

Collinsville Trade Day is truly a DeKalb County Icon. It is very special. It is not just another flea market or outdoor market, it is an entertainment experience. It is located just south of downtown Collinsville on H-11. The property is appealing adding to the overall experience. It is a rural setting with a great view of Lookout Mountain just to the east.
If you haven’t been or haven’t been lately I recommend the trip. It will be well worth it and may start a habit. For more information visit or call 866-262-2127.