Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ohians Love Alabama! by John Dersham

I just got back from the AAA Great Vacations Expo in Columbus, Ohio. This expo is held every year in January at the War Memorial Exposition Hall in Columbus. This show is dedicated to travel and tourism. Each year hundreds of Destination Marketing Organizations, like ours, and Convention and Visitor Bureaus and other companies that promote travel for a living set up their individual booths at this show. There are many of these shows throughout the country. We attend 4-6 of these shows each year dependent on our demographic pull from each location. Most of the large travel expo’s are in the winter when people are looking for a place to go for something to do but also to plan their vacations for the spring, summer and fall. We had a crowded booth all the time during the three day weekend event. People from Ohio love Alabama. The reason is because we have mountains and we have a beach, both of which Ohio does not have. In addition we are a fairly short drive with good interstates that get visitors here in about 7-8 hours from Columbus. It always amazes me how many people at these shows are already familiar with our area and have visited us before and many have come multiple times.  We heard a whole lot of “Roll Tide” all weekend and lots of people stopped to get information about their next Alabama vacation but also to tell us about their previous trips to Alabama, where they went and what they did. Everyone had something good to say about us. They love our scenery, our camping, hiking and fishing. They love our low cost destinations. They like our Bar-B-Que and they love our Robert Trent Jones golf courses. We had at least two dozen people stop to say they had played these fantastic golf courses or were going to be there soon. The Robert Trent Jones golf trail is advertised on network TV affiliates throughout the country and is very well known. We also heard about our beautiful beaches at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Many people drive down I-65 from Ohio which is a straight shot for them to our beaches. In addition we hear about our area. They love the mountains and waterfalls and canyon that they do not get to see in Ohio. It is fun for us to participate in this expo. We know we are getting business by attending the winter travel shows but it is rewarding especially to hear from people who love our area and had a good experience here and want to come back again.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Winter is the travel expo season by John Dersham

Every winter DeKalb Tourism participates in some of the key travel shows around the Southeast and Midwest. These shows are held in large cities, usually at convention centers or complexes that can accommodate up to a thousand supplier booths and up to 140,000 visitors to the exhibits. These shows are held mostly in the coldest part of winter for a couple reasons.  Number one: people are looking for things to do and places to go during cold and sometimes ugly weather; Number two: people are interested in planning their warm weather vacations; and number three: many of these shows are comprised not only of Destination Marketing Organizations like ours, but they are boat, RV, fishing and motorcycle expo’s too. In cold weather visitors come to these shows longing for sunny days and warm weather and seeing RV’s, Boats and Motorcycles gets them in the mood to travel and in the mood to buy one of these products at the show or in our case plan to take a vacation to our area.
Our travel show season begins this weekend in Columbus, Ohio at the AAA Great Vacations Expo. This particular show is dedicated to travel and vacation planning. There will be organizations from all over the world set up to show off their destinations. This show is a three day event and will have up to 50,000 visitors. The next show is in Greenville, SC in February and it is also a three day AAA Great Vacations Expo. This is followed by the Indianapolis Travel, RV, Boat and Motorcycle Expo. It is held at the Indiana state fairgrounds and covers multiple buildings. This show began in 1954 and usually draws up to 150,000 people during the course of the ten day expo. In April we will attend the Nashville Women’s Expo. These women’s expos are held in various cities and they focus on products and services that appeal to women, including travel planning. In most cases it is women who plan their family vacations.
Overall this is a very effective way for DeKalb Tourism to promote to regions within our range of likely visitation. These shows are an opportunity to talk to and hopefully sell people on the reasons they should come to see us. We will give them travel guides and other pieces of printed information to take home with them. Every year when I go back to some of the same expo’s I will have people come by our booth and tell us they have been to our area and they tell us how much they enjoyed their visit. In several of these shows Alabama has a large presence. We partner with Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association and the Alabama Department of Travel and Tourism. Our booths cover approximately 50 running feet down one of the isles. Like all forms of advertising, if you increase the visitor pool everyone will get more. The more people we can get to visit Alabama will increase our chances of some of them spending time in our area.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Magazine coming to our area by John Dersham

Lookout Alabama is a new magazine focusing on the Lookout Mountain region. It will include towns, businesses and people living on the mountain but it will also include surrounding valley communities, including Fort Payne and most all of our DeKalb towns.
Lookout Alabama magazine in being produced and published by Olivia (Editor) and Randy Grider (Publisher). They have more than 35 years of publishing experience. Randy grew up in Rainsville and both Randy and Olivia have journalism degrees and have won numerous national and regional awards. They are the only husband and wife team to win the Jesse H. Neal award. This award is considered the Pulitzer Prize of business journalism.
I have included text below by Olivia and Randy Grider telling us more about this exciting new publication.
The first issue of Lookout Alabama magazine, a quarterly, regional publication showcasing the Lookout Mountain area, will be printed in June. The magazine will be distributed locally and mailed directly to households across Alabama and the Southeast.

Lookout Alabama’s mission is to celebrate, promote and preserve the unique culture, history and environmental treasures of the Lookout Mountain region through a high-quality publication, collaborative community partnerships and events.

“First and foremost, I'm very excited about coming home and being a part of the community that I love,” said Lookout Alabama Publisher Randy Grider. “I have spent the past two decades working in the publishing industry – at newspapers around the state and, for the last 12 years, at national magazines – but my heart has always been in Northeast Alabama. Wherever I went, I was constantly sharing stories about the people and the natural beauty of the area. Now I have the opportunity to spotlight the best of the region with many more people. It's literally a dream come true.”

Through articles and images, the magazine will highlight the many cultural, educational, outdoor-adventure, dining, shopping and child-friendly attractions that make Alabama’s Lookout Mountain region an ideal vacation and retirement destination as well as business location. will provide access to all Lookout Alabama magazine stories and photography as well as videos, musical recordings, additional images and other multi-media resources to provide a wide-ranging window on the area’s many treasures.

A major goal of Lookout Alabama is to support local businesses, artisans and parks and facilitate job creation by increasing tourism and retirement to the area and encouraging companies to locate here.

“I truly believe Lookout Alabama can be an asset to the people and businesses in the Lookout Mountain region,” said Editor Olivia Grider. “We want to help promote all the area has to offer and generate economic growth. At the same time, we don't want to see the region lose its unique charm and culture. It's possible to grow and create economic opportunities without becoming over-commercialized. Like many people here, we realize preservation is very important. Our goal is to keep in mind why people visit the area and help strike the right balance.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year & Thanks! by John Dersham

2012 was another good year for Tourism in DeKalb County. In a time of somewhat high unemployment and an overall economy that has been sluggish people are still taking time to enjoy travel. Since 2008 according the National Travel Association the average traveler is going less distance on vacation than they used to. This is in part due to higher fuel costs but also a reflection of the overall economy. We are fortunate here because we have 11 million people living within a 200 mile radius. This makes us easy and fast to reach and once here we are a low cost destination. We have continued to grow all during this recession. In 2011 tourists spent just shy of $70 million dollars in our county. To show our growth over the last ten years that same number was $38 million in 2002. We have nearly doubled in the dollars spent by tourists in our area in just ten years.

DeKalb Tourism would like to send out a special thanks to our communities and our people of DeKalb County. Your support over our 59 years of operation has helped our county grow from a small unknown piece of paradise to a favorite travel destination for many vacationers all throughout or state and our region. We are especially good at bringing visitors from Birmingham and southern Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. It is our goal to broaden our appeal and be more successful at bringing in tourists from Tennessee, Georgia and parts of the Midwest.

 We are a Destination Marketing Organization. This means we advertise outside of our area to get people from outside our county to come here on vacation.

Here is how we do that:

 *Tourist Information Center- travel guides, rack cards and verbal conversations with customers.
* Distribution of travel guides at statewide welcome centers and through private companies that deliver to motels, mini-markets and other venue hosted travel racks.
*Distribution and promotion of our County through Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association whom promotes all of North Alabama.
*Distribution and promotion via the Alabama State Department of Tourism.
*Travel shows throughout the Southeast and Midwest.
*Magazine and newspaper ads
*Hosting travel writers coming to write about DeKalb County.
*Advertising on our high traffic digital marquee.
* Radio, Television, YouTube and Facebook advertising.
* Our website. We receive approximately 25,000- 35,000 views on our website monthly.
*Digital ads on various tourism related websites and search engines.

For more information about DeKalb Tourism contact us at
256-845-3957. You can visit or come in and visit us at our Tourist Information Center located at 1503 Glenn Blvd SW in Fort Payne.