Thursday, November 21, 2013

Changing Seasons by John Dersham

I always look forward to each changing season. It is such a beautiful process as each season brings forth it own set of moods, feelings and memories of all the same season from the past. I think I look forward to them all nearly equally with perhaps spring and fall being my favorites.
In the spring I look forward to those first warm sunny days when you get that timeless irresistible desire to get outside and enjoy the feel of the warming sun on your face.
Our area is very special because we live in the last climate zone that in my opinion has a true four season change. We have the advantage of having more days of the year that are comfortably warm than our neighbors further north and more distinct falls and winters than our neighbors to the south. Once you get south of Birmingham the fall color is less, much in part due to the lessening hardwood forests which dwindle as you move south, but also the warmer temperatures don't trigger the wonderful color in fall like we have here. We get cold weather and some snow too. From someone who lived much of my life much further north, I can say our seasons go through an equal change in look but we have the advantage of warmer annual temperatures and more warm days in both spring and fall and  in winter too. I prefer living in a climate with four distinct seasons, like ours. Much of my enjoyment each year revolves around the climate changes and the changes in look and feel that each seasonal change evokes.
This time of year as fall foliage begins to fall to the ground and temperatures drop I start getting in the Thanksgiving and Christmas feeling. The thoughts of family times, laughing, good conversations and plenty of food and holiday music always trigger wonderful thoughts of Thanksgivings and Christmas’s of our past.
…so from our house to yours, I wish all of you a blessed and joyous holiday season. Have fun, be safe and eat well.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Southeast Tourism Society - Fall Forum by John Dersham

The Southeast Tourism Society is the largest regional tourism organization covering our 12 southeastern states. They are well known nationally and internationally and are considered one of the best tourism organizations in the world. STS is a leader in Governmental affairs as they relate to the tourism industry and they are the nationwide leader in providing educational services to those of us in the tourism industry. They have a spring and fall symposium each year. These three day seminars are held at various destinations within STS’s twelve state geography. This year our Fall Forum was in Jacksonville, Florida at the Omni Hotel. As is the case with most of their events there were from 125 to 175 tourism professionals from all over the twelve state STS region who came to learn the newest information that guides us all toward staying current on the latest ways to manage our organizations and the newest methods to market our destinations. In this rapidly changing business and technology environment those who stay current with how their potential visitors get their information provide a definite advantage in making sure their potential visitor will be exposed to their destination using whatever technology is the most popular at the moment. In less than two years more than 50% of vacation planning is done on a smart phone or a tablet. Five years ago that number was near zero. In addition, people are making reservations and making last minute changes to where they are going, as they travel using handheld wireless technology. It is critical to have a mobile ready website or App for viewers to use or we potentially lose out. DeKalb Tourism has been mobile ready for several years now and visitation to our mobile website is increasing monthly as traditional website views has leveled out.  It has only been about 15 years that people have been using the internet to plan their travel, prior to that the age old newspaper and magazine ads, printed travel guides and trade shows were the standard method to deliver your destination information. Then came radio and TV and now all of these means are used but as more and more potential visitors use electronic information, we as destination marketing organizations prioritize our advertising budgets to use more web ads, social media, electronic newsletters and mobile friendly websites. STS brings to their conference the top speakers who are best educated in particular applications that untimely influence everyone attending. Last week in Jacksonville we had a host of professional speakers that coached and helped develop our skills at learning how to use all of the electronic applications to our advantage, including how to measure the data and how to change our strategy to better target our potential visitor. We can now seek out our potential visitor just by matching their interest sets to our offerings. This is amazing stuff. We no longer have to mail out a generic untargeted flyer and hope to get a few interested in our destination. Now we can figure out a pool of people who like to do the things our area offers and then we find places and methods to advertise where they are mostly likely to see it.
Southeast Tourism Society hosts its annual Marketing College in Dahlonega, Georgia each year at North Georgia College and University. This is a three year certified program to educate tourism professionals with a diploma specific to the travel industry. Kayla Worthey, our Marketing Manger and I have attended Marketing College and received our Travel Marketing Professional diploma.