For Immediate Release                                   Contact: Office of Communications (404) 651-7774
Wednesday, September 1, 2010                                   Stefanie Paupeck, GDEcD, (404) 962-4075

Governor Perdue Honors Industry Leaders at State's Tourism Conference

More than 400 industry professionals gathered in Athens

ATHENS - Governor Sonny Perdue recognized several of the state's top tourism professionals with awards at the 2010 Governor's Conference on Tourism today. 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 Athens from August 30 to September 1. More than 400 tourism industry professionals from Georgia's convention and visitor bureaus, attractions, hotels and more attended the annual conference.

"Our state's tourism economy ranks 8th in the nation and 2nd in the Southeast," said Governor Perdue. "This conference epitomizes what Georgia tourism is about -- everyone moving in the same direction to grow this industry and make Georgia a premier travel destination."

Award recipients were nominated by the Georgia tourism industry. Recipients of the 2010 Tourism awards include:

The Magnolia Highway Project, spearheaded by the Americus-Sumter Tourism Council, was recognized with the Paul Broun Award for Marketing Initiatives, given in memory of Senator Paul Broun of Athens.  This organization developed a new scenic parkway along an existing route as an alternative to I-75 in order to highlight a less-visited area of the state and boost its economy.  Using repurposed SPLOST money and a marketing grant from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the group promotes the route with a brochure and website. 

Visit Savannah, formerly the Savannah Convention & Visitors Bureau, received the Larry Allen Award for Excellence in Tourism, given in memory of the late Larry Allen, general manager of Stone Mountain. Visit Savannah was recognized for its strategies to entice high-end cultural arts visitors to its community.  These strategies included digital media programming, partnering with cultural arts organizations and creating relationships with cultural arts writers. 

The Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) received the Al Burris Award for Creative Expression, named after Representative Al Burris of Marietta. The Columbus CVB was recognized for its creative and innovative "Key to Successful Meetings" campaign.

Sabra McCullar, of the Warm Springs Tourism Association, was honored with the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award. McCullar created the Warm Springs Welcome Center, served as president of the Presidential Pathways regional travel association and serves on her local city council.

Marguerite Copeland, president of the Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), received the Georgia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureau (GACVB) Tom Kilgore Award for exemplifying great leadership in the tourism industry.  She has served as president of the Historic Heartland regional travel association as well as several other tourism organizations.

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. This year's private industry partner is Larry Halpern of Positive Energy. The partner agency award went to the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter in Perry, which has attracted more than 15 million exhibitors since 1990, with an economic impact of more than $1 billion.  Flat Creek Lodge in Swainsboro received the product development award. The sustainable, eco-friendly resort located in a sparsely populated county has created its own mini-economy with a payroll of more than a half a million dollars. 

Georgia State Representative Ben Harbin was awarded the Legislative Award for his unwavering support of the tourism industry during the legislative session.  Harbin is the chairman of the appropriations committee of the House of Representatives. 

The Governor's Conference on Tourism 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 2011 Governor's Conference on Tourism will take place September 11-14 in Macon, Georgia.

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