The Liberty County Convention & Visitors Bureau hosted a workshop for tourism professionals June 4-5 at Liberty County Schools Performing Arts Center.
According to CVB CEO Leah Poole, more than 80 tourism professionals representing communities around the state participated in the Heritage and Cultural Tourism Seminar.
The second day was focused on funding heritage tourism. Carey Ferrara, tourism project manager for the Georgia Coast, moderated a series of speakers that included Cindy Eidson, Georgia Department of Economic Development; Tina Lily, Georgia Council for the Arts; Jessica Reynolds, Georgia Department of Community Affairs; Laura McCarty, Georgia Humanities; Joy Vannerson, Garden Club of Georgia Inc.; Jay Markwalter, Dahlonega CVB; and Carmie McDonald, the Fox (Theater) Institute.
While most speakers shared how they help communities obtain grants to fund tourism projects, Markwalter talked about the successes he’s had promoting tourism in Lumpkin County. McDonald discussed the success her company has had in helping communities revitalize historic theaters.
Markwalter presented video and slide presentations that helped promote tourism in a county with one town that had a population of 5,000 people. In addition to the Blue Ridge Mountains, he said Dahlonega is home to the U.S. Army Ranger School’s mountain phase, the Appalachian Trail, the Dahlonega Gold Museum, an Old Fashioned Christmas and festivals every third weekend.
He said what his group tried to do is package all the attractions using all sources available, including social media. He emphasized they did this by investing “very little money.”
“The economic recession has been very hard on historic theaters,” said McDonald, whose slide presentation included pictures of renovated theaters in Atlanta, Brunswick, Springfield, Warrenton and Toccoa. “(The Fox Theater) was threatened with demolition in the 1970s. But we were able to turn it all around.”
She said the Fox Institute not only helps communities find funding grants to renovate historic theaters, but it also helps communities with publicity opportunities through its theater revival tours.
The rest of the second day’s agenda included information about protecting heritage-tourism resources and using social media for promotion.
Cheryl Hargrove, president of HTC (Heritage, Tourism, Culture) Partners, began the first session with an hour-long discussion about the economic benefits of preserving local heritage and culture and how doing so can promote tourism.
Most of the first day’s discussion sessions dealt with creating and developing heritage tourism with speakers from the Georgia Department of Economic Development and Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The first day’s agenda fit well with the tour that guests took that afternoon to the Midway Museum and cemetery and the Geechee Kunda compound in Riceboro.
“Everyone was very positive,” Poole said. “The comment we heard most was that we fed them very well.”
A Lowcountry boil in conjunction with the workshop was held Tuesday at Bryant Commons, with music provided by local band 3rd Class Citizens. That event was very successful, Poole said.
She said the state recently started holding tourism workshops again after they had been discontinued for a while. This time, the state chose to hold a workshop in Liberty County.