Thursday, March 29, 2012

Southeast Tourism Society and USA Travel by John Dersham

During our economic downturn of the last four years tourism has continued to prosper. In most cases tourism has remained equal to or slightly growing each year despite our high unemployment and high gas prices. Stress levels have been high among individuals and families all during these tough economic times. This has increased the need to get away from it all and find a way to relax. National travel statistics indicate the average tourist has not spent as many dollars on their trips as they used to and they are not traveling as far. None the less most people are continuing to take vacations and the feeling of that need for traveling on vacation has not diminished.
Last week I attended a spring educational conference hosted by the Southeast Tourism Society. They have a spring and fall conference every year in one of the 12 states that comprise STS. They promote tourism in each of the 12 states but in addition they play a major role in Washington when it comes to developing policy as it relates to tourism in the United States.
This year, for the first time since 1992 the USA has an official policy that deals with and promotes travel to the US from the international market place. For the first time since 1992 we will have TV commercials running in 18 countries in hopes to increase international travel. The Obama administration unveiled this effort recently in a press conference at Disneyworld. He said tourism is the third largest growth industry in the US and has become one of the premiere industries in the United States and is among the top employers as an industry and even more inviting is the fact tourism jobs in the United States cannot be outsourced to any other location. Example-You can’t move a US National Park somewhere else. It will always be where it is and will always need local employees. To coincide with this international effort a new company called Brand USA will create a trademark signature look, an ad plan and trademark USA logo that will be seen on all the advertising. It will be the intent to expand the brand so we here in DeKalb County will be able to brand our attractions with this logo along with the attraction’s own identity.
During this seminar, Bill Hardman, President and CEO of the Southeast Tourism Society, asked me to serve on his Policy Council. Our group will be involved in governmental issues at local, regional and National levels as they relate to tourism. There is an upcoming tourism Powwow in Washington in May that will be for the purpose of working out plans and strategies as they relate to travel in and to the US. This is very exciting stuff and I am honored to play a role in the process.
STS plays a major role in educational services to the tourism industry. Their two seminars each year are packed with the latest trends and procedures for us in the industry to help us stay up with the ever changing times and to provide us the educational tools to enhance our performance at the local level. STS is host to Marketing College that is held for one week each summer in Dahlonega Georgia, at North Georgia College. This will be the 21st year of Marketing College. It is a nationally certified program and each participate gets their diploma after completing the three-year program. Graduates are designated as a TMP, Travel Marketing Professional.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Break in DeKalb County By Kayla Worthey

Did you know that a lot of visitors come to our area for their spring breaks each year? We have so many things for you to enjoy here in DeKalb County.Here are 9 days of fun things to keep you busy:
Day 1 – Take a trip to Tigers for Tomorrow, an exotic animal park and rescue preserve. It is home to over 100 animals, such as tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, wolves, bears, a camel, zebra and more. They also have an animal contact barnyard full of farm animals and small exotic mammals like Goats, Llamas, Sheep, Emus, Peacocks, Deer and others. They are a last stop preserve, and the animals that come to live with them remain there for the rest of their lives.
Day 2 – Find your way to High Falls Park and its 35-feet waterfall. Formed by Town Creek, the falls span some 300 feet across at times. Near the base of the impressive High Falls is a natural bridge. This 25-feet span of rock features a large arch, eroded by the flow of water over hundreds of years. Because of its remote location, High Falls remains unknown even to many Sand Mountain residents.
Day 3 – Tour Sequoyah Caverns where you will be awed by the beauty of the many reflection pools and fascinating passageways of this ancient cavern. As you meander through the alcoves you’ll see how nature has turned the caverns into a wonderland of formations and intricate rock designs.
Day 4 - Discover DeSoto State Park and it’s over 3500 acres that include hiking and biking trails, many waterfalls and its largest tourist attraction, the 104-feet DeSoto Fall. It also features a picnic area with playground, Olympic-size swimming pool, nature center with interpretive programs and live animals. It even has campgrounds if you want to pitch a tent for the night.
Day 5 – Go on an adventure with True Adventure Sports. Choose from an extreme night hike, a wild cave tour, zip line and sky swing adventures, rock climbing, rappelling, treasure hunts, and much more.
Day 6 - Try your hand at Golfing. Visit one of the 4 local public golf courses and find your handicap. Lil’ Mole Run Golf Course is located in Mentone and offers 18 holes and will challenge you with sand pits and ponds. Saddle Rock Golf Course, located in Mentone, DeSoto Golf Course, located in Fort Payne, and Rainsville Golf & Country Club are all on 9 holes from 18 tees with water hazards and sand traps.
Day 7 - Visit the Little River Canyon National Preserve! It is home to the Little River Canyon, scenic drives, a backcountry area and a ‘green’ JSU Canyon Center. Little River itself is unique because it flows for most of its length atop Lookout Mountain. That is very uncommon for rivers and that is part of what makes it a tourist attraction, that and its sheer beauty. You can hike, bike, walk or drive.
Day 8 - Make a trip to Collinsville Trade day. It houses around one thousand vendors, making it one of the largest outdoor markets in the south. Be one of almost 30,000 visitors on a typical Saturday. You will find all kinds of antiques, collectibles, children's toys and clothes, work clothes and boots, fishing gear, fresh fruits and vegetables, furniture, tools, accessories, livestock and a whole lot more! You could just go for the food. You can get homemade ice cream, yummy hand dipped corndogs, authentic Mexican food and of course hamburgers and hotdogs. The best part…real fresh squeezed lemonade.
Day 9 – Rest and Relax. You are going to need it!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Working Together to Promote DeKalb County by John Dersham

It always seems the best way to achieve the best results is to include as many people as possible working toward the same goal. Even the best ideas by one person are minute when others get involved to help make an idea reality. In promoting tourism in DeKalb County it requires a lot of networking. Networking is reaching out to grasp the talents of many people to help you achieve your own goals. Here is how we use this in DeKalb Tourism. We are involved intimately at multiple levels of tourism development, marketing and promotion. We are active with The Southeast Tourism Society whom promotes tourism in the 12 southeastern states. We draw from their strength and resources to aid us educationally on what is happening in tourism on the national and regional levels. They provide in depth research into travel trends that greatly aid us in our budgeting process and our marketing. This research provides the data we need to decide when and how to best spend our adverting dollars. Our next level of networking is with the State of Alabama Tourism Department. They show us how they will promote the state and how DeKalb County fits into their advertising plan. We attend their quarterly meetings and through this we better understand how to manage DeKalb Tourism. Our next partner is Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. This is a dynamic organization that promotes tourism in the northern 16 counties of Alabama. We here in DeKalb County are greatly enhanced by their work. We very specifically maximize their advertising plan to aid us. We, with a smaller budget than they, fill in the advertising gaps with DeKalb specific ads. The last level of tourism networking is in our own county and the many levels of businesses that make all or part of their income from tourism. These individuals through both advertising and verbal links help promote tourism to DeKalb County. Word of mouth advertising is very important to us and very successful in our area. We have an extremely high return rate among visitors. This means once people have come here they will return. The reason they return is due to the good experience they had when here. This means we treated them well and they like what they saw and did. People are friendly and helpful in our area which provides the best word of mouth advertising possible. Groups like the Fort Payne and Rainsville Chamber of Commerce’s greatly help promote DeKalb through their network of members. The Mentone Area Preservation Association and Mentone Area Arts Council play a big role as does the Big Wills Arts Council in Fort Payne. The Lookout Mountain Parkway Association and cities of Fort Payne and Rainsville promote tourism to our area as does the very active tourism oriented business owners in Mentone. A great example of this is with Doreen Crow Waters of Crow’s Nest Antiques, she started a Mentone Area Tourist Information Facebook page. She captures information from the community. Locals can make entrees about what is going on in Mentone. This helps us at DeKalb Tourism too because if we find something on her page that we did not know then we can add it to our ongoing Calendar of Events. Our success here at DeKalb Tourism is only as good as the great people resources we have all around us. Thanks to everyone for your help.