Discovering Georgia’s Tourism Highlights: Insights from the Georgia CVB’s Conference, with Nicole Mahoney

Episode 324

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Break the Ice Media team members Rhonda Carges and Brittany Lynn attended the Georgia CVB’s annual conference and discovered a wealth of inspirational stories and ideas that the state has to offer. With a positive momentum coming off of a strong 2022, there is a lot of optimism for a bright future in Georgia tourism.

The state’s beautiful outdoors continues to attract visitors, with state parks seeing large numbers of visitors and new apps featuring outdoor experiences like canoe and kayak trails. The conference attendees described the event as exciting, innovative, collaborative, and like a family, making it clear that Georgia’s tourism industry is evolving and staying relevant in a changing world.

In this episode, you’ll hear from seven Georgia tourism leaders:

Collaboration and Learning

The Annual Conference organized by GACVB offers an excellent chance for professionals in the tourism industry to upgrade their knowledge of destination marketing and management. At this conference, industry suppliers, travel and hospitality affiliates, and tourism professionals come together to discuss successes and explore solutions related to the travel and tourism industry. It is a fun and informative event that offers ample opportunities for collaboration and learning with like-minded professionals across the state.

Joe Marinelli – President, Visit Savannah

Joe shares one of the many successful partnerships that his organization has fostered in Savannah. He explains how they work closely with the leadership of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and formed an Air Service Task Force made up of representatives from the airport, Visit Savannah, and Hilton Head to attract new air service to the region. By working together, they have brought in new airlines and expanded the number of destinations the airport serves.

Kat Hoyt – Visitor Center President, Discover Darien

Kat shares why it’s about more than just visiting attractions, but getting outside and enjoying Georgia’s beautiful natural spaces. Whether it’s hiking through the mountains or paddling down a river, visitors are increasingly interested in connecting with nature and exploring the outdoors.

Kat also describes the potential she sees in the use of technology to enhance the visitor experience. For example, the riverkeepers are developing apps that offer information about canoe and kayak trails in the state. This kind of technology can help visitors plan their trips more effectively and make the most of the available destinations.

Sam McDuffie – Director of Tourism for Discover Dahlonega

Sam shares his successful collaboration and partnership experience in using Over-the-Top (OTT) Television for their destination’s tourism promotions. He emphasizes the importance of adapting to new technologies to cater to the ever-changing preferences of their target audience. With more people now using streaming devices for their TV viewing, his DMO has been trying to reach its target market by promoting its commercials and brand in streaming services through OTT TV.

Sandy White – President & CEO Alliance for Dade, Chamber of Commerce & Welcome Center

Sandy shares her excitement for tourism in Georgia in 2023 and notes that the trend of outdoor activities continues to gain momentum, with state parks seeing large numbers of visitors. She believes people are rediscovering the joys of road trips and staying close to home due to lingering concerns about air travel. As a result, small communities and outdoor destinations in Georgia are poised to benefit greatly. She also observes that the market is shifting towards more family-oriented weekend trips that involve outdoor activities.

Stephanie Stuckey – CEO of Stuckey’s Corporation

Stephanie believes their brand is all about the freedom and independence of exploring America, which is at the core of tourism. Stuckey is excited to see a revival of the road trip in the country, as people are enjoying the joy of getting in their cars and exploring. In terms of changes in the market, Stuckey has noticed an increasing interest in small-town America. The sense of belonging and connection to a place is becoming more important to travelers, which makes Stephanie optimistic about the future of tourism in America.

Steven Schumacher – President, Cartersville Bartow CVB

According to Steven Schumacher, one trend that’s new to the market and booming right now is the popularity of platforms like Airbnb for renting homes and cabins. In the past, hotels were always the main focus for CVBs to earn occupancy taxes. However, in recent years, with Airbnb’s contributions to CVB funding, it has expanded their reach to those who may not want a traditional hotel stay. By partnering with both hotels and home-sharing platforms, CVBs can attract a broader range of travelers. Steven believes this trend enhances their ability to appeal to people who are interested in experiencing destinations in a more home-like setting rather than a traditional hotel.

Tyler Bryant – President & CEO, Visit Hawkinsville

According to Tyler, the word that best describes the GACVB annual conference is “collaboration.” This conference is all about sharing and learning new ideas from each other and working together towards success. The attendees collaborate with one another to grow and prosper in the industry. He shares why the conference offers a great opportunity for professionals to network, exchange knowledge, and find ways to work together toward a common goal.

Forward Momentum for Georgia Destinations

Our attendance at the Georgia CVBS conference has revealed some exciting insights into the state’s tourism industry. Georgia is experiencing positive momentum after a successful 2022 with a promising outlook for 2023. Visitors are drawn to the state’s natural beauty, with outdoor experiences remaining a top priority for many. Furthermore, the revival of road trips and interest in small-town America is playing into Georgia’s strengths, making it a compelling destination for visitors. The state’s tourism industry is continuously evolving to remain relevant in a changing world, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for Georgia.

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