Leaders work for increase in tourism - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Leaders work for increase in tourism

February 12, 2007

Albany--  Tourism pumps a lot of cash into Dougherty County's economy. In 2004, visitors spent $140 million in the county. The Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau is working hard to keep that money coming.

More than 80 tourism professionals from across the state are in Albany to learn how to better market their cities to the world outside of Georgia. Of course, Albany leaders are listening closely so that they can hear the sounds of more people coming to get a glimpse of the city and county.

It's what some would call a small city, but Albany touts big attractions. For example, there's the Riverquarium and there's also the Parks at Chehaw.

"We have people coming here from Virginia," said Chehaw Executive Director Doug Porter. Porter says that's the hard work though, getting the word out to other states and getting people here.

"I think we have a lot to offer and hopefully we're figuring out how to package that so that we can attract people here," said Porter. That's the goal of a meeting in town.  Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau leaders from all over the state spend time learning more marketing skills and how to lure visitors to their cities, which can be a challenge.

"It is challenging for all areas to attract tourism. We have a wealth of resources in our state, small and large," said GACVB Executive Director Julie Musselman. But with competition from large cities like Atlanta, Albany has to put extra effort into selling its appeal.

"A lot of times they just don't think about Southwest Georgia because they just don't know what we have to offer here," said Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau VP Sara Underdown.

So it's about selling the area and possibly even buying other methods to be successful. "Anytime we can get visitors here, we try to beg, borrow, and steal ideas from each other and that's what this week is all about," said Underdown.

It's also about learning for Albany leaders. "I think the biggest lesson learned is we've got to get people down here to see the story," said Underdown. And once they get people here, the job isn't finished.

"Then you have to show them a good time," said Porter. That way they'll go home and tell their friends about all the Good Life City has to offer.

Dougherty County and Albany get good tourism numbers in the spring and summer with things like family reunions. Leaders are focusing on improving weekend business. They're optimistic about the upcoming Snickers Marathon which may bring thousands here.

The local bureau is also eager to get a package out that to promote upcoming SPLOST projects including the Ray Charles Plaza. The convention wraps up Tuesday.

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