Deal presents Georgia tourism industry awards

September 14, 2011

Macon events recognizes sector that brought in $21 billion from visitors in 2010

Gov. Nathan Deal today recognized several of the state’s top tourism professionals with awards at the 2011 Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The joint tourism industry conference was hosted by the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), Georgia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus (GACVB) and the Tourism Development Alliance of Georgia (TDAG) in Macon Sept. 12-14. More than 450 tourism industry professionals from Georgia’s convention and visitor bureaus, attractions, hotels and more attended the annual conference.

“Georgia’s tourism industry is a huge contributor to the state’s economy, employing more than 233,800 Georgians,” said Deal. “Georgia’s tourism industry professionals are instrumental in making sure visitors to our state have a memorable experience and become repeat visitors.”

2011 award recipients, nominated by the Georgia tourism industry, include:

The Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau’s “Meet me in Columbus, GA” promotional video was recognized with the Paul Broun Award for Marketing Initiatives, given in memory of the late state Sen. Paul Broun Sr. of Athens. It is awarded to the entity that demonstrates an effective and unique marketing initiative. 

Theresa Jenkins, Executive Director of the Marietta Welcome Center and Visitors Bureau, received the Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award, given in memory of the late Larry Allen, general manager of Stone Mountain. Jenkins has served as the leader of the CVB for more than 20 years and has been recognized for her leadership roles with local, regional and Georgia organizations.

AthFest and the University of Georgia New Media Institute received the Al Burris Award for Creative Expression, named after former state Rep. Al Burris of Marietta. AthFest and the University of Georgia New Media Institute were recognized for their creative and innovative Athfest iPhone app. The community festival, working with the local university, developed a unique, digital application to help local festival-goers identify and organize their festival experience. 

Jeannie Buttrum, the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Classic South Regional Tourism Representative, received the Tom Kilgore Lifetime Achievement Award for exemplifying outstanding lifetime commitment to tourism. Buttrum has been a tireless leader, tourism champion and creative sounding board for associations and individuals across the state. Her advocacy and dedication to the tourism industry has benefitted the state for 32 years.

The Tourism Champion Awards were created in 2003 to acknowledge the support and guidance given to the state’s tourism industry by individuals and organizations who have taken leadership roles in developing tourism opportunities in communities across the state.

Rep. Lynn Smith of Newnan was awarded the Tourism Champion in Government Award for showing extraordinary support of the tourism industry during the legislative session. Smith spearheaded the state funding and development of the Chattahoochee Bend State Park. She also serves as chair of the House National Resources and Environment Committee. 

This year’s Tourism Champion Product Development Award recipient is the Augusta Canal Authority for the transformation of the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. “The Luckie Marietta District” received the Partnership Award for their alliance, a member-based initiative, to increase visitation and tourism expenditures to Georgia.

Rod Musselman, who recently retired after 15 years as the General Manager of the Hilton Savannah DeSoto, was awarded the Tourism Champion Private Sector Award for his tireless efforts to spread the message and garner support for the tourism industry. He was instrumental in forming the Savannah Area Tourism Leadership Council and the Tourism Development Alliance of Georgia.

“Despite cuts to local tourism budgets, Georgia’s tourism industry has continued to partner with the Georgia Tourism division on marketing initiatives, new programs, travel/trade shows and product development opportunities in order to enhance our tourism offerings statewide,” said Kevin Langston, deputy commissioner for Tourism for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Georgia was actually one of the few states to experience an increase in inbound international travel by 19 percent with domestic travel expenditures also increasing 7.6 percent.”

The Governor’s Tourism Conference is intended to educate members of the tourism industry about travel- and tourism-related issues on a national and statewide level, including emerging trends as well as ways to reinforce current tourism efforts and future initiatives.

The 2012 Governor’s Conference on Tourism will take place Aug. 26-29 at the Marriott Atlanta Buckhead Hotel & Conference Center.