October 2018
Another month, another hurricane: Helping after Michael
Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas hard in September, and Hurricane Michael devastated portions of the Florida Panhandle and points inland in Florida and Georgia this month. Once again, the tourism industry is organized to help.

Visit Florida has a $9 million marketing plan to support tourism in the Panhandle that balances the devastation in Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe with the reality that nearby destinations such as Destin and Pensacola were relatively unscathed and are open for business.

“If we do not manage the customer perception, it could be very devastating to our economy if they think that hurricane damage extends across the entire Panhandle of Florida,” said STS member Dan Rowe, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach CVB and a member of Visit Florida’s executive committee, in a Miami Herald report.

STS members can help Hurricane Michael’s victims through VolunteerFlorida.org and Hurricane Florence’s victims through CAREolinas.com.
Nebraska’s question: Can brutal honesty sell a travel destination?
A tourism marketing case study is playing out before our eyes as Nebraska employs total candor in its messaging. “Nebraska. Honestly, It’s Not for Everyone” is the theme of an effort that is humorous, self-deprecating and simultaneously educational. Tourism leaders far beyond Nebraska are certain to be watching over the next couple of years.

The theme and early ads were greeted warmly at a Nebraska tourism conference this month. Among them was one that said, “Famous for our flat, boring landscape” that showed a pair of hikers leaping between rock formations at Toadstool Geologic Park, a location that many would guess is in Utah. Another’s headline is “Lucky for you, there’s nothing to do here” that shows partygoers floating down a Sand Hills stream in livestock tanks, a Nebraska “sport” called tanking.

“It’s probably more edgy than we’re used to,” said Lori Paulsen of the Nebraska Winery and Grape Growers Association in an Omaha.com report, adding that she hated the previous theme, “Nebraska Nice.” As Paulsen put it, “No one goes somewhere because it’s nice.”
The state’s effort resulted from target-market research showing that consumers’ lack of knowledge about Nebraska led to a lack of curiosity. In a KTIC radio interview, Nebraska Tourism Executive Director John Ricks spoke strongly about a long-term devotion to brand honesty and how the state needs to be true to itself and honest with its potential visitors. As for that case study, Ricks couldn’t have a better opening than calculating the value of a Steven Colbert segment that gave the Nebraska campaign nationwide exposure – along with some belly laughs. 
Virginians capitalize on what’s on top of the ground, not underneath
The “Tail of the Dragon” is a serpentine mountain road in Tennessee and North Carolina (318 turns in 11 miles), and some observant Virginians not too far away have seized on the concept with the “Back of the Dragon” that is bringing new money to an area once dependent on coal mining.

Virginia’s Route 16 offers 32 miles that wind over three mountains between Marion and Tazwell, and tourism promoters are gaining ground with motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts. A major New York Times story reported on the success: 60,000 bikers and drivers in 2017 compared to 16,000 in 2013.

Chris Cannon, executive director of Friends of Southwest Virginia, said in the article that the focus is on the “creative economy” that includes natural and cultural assets instead of coal, tobacco and lumber. “We as a region are trying to diversify,” he said.
European-style riverboat cruises the Mississippi

If you’re anywhere between Memphis and New Orleans over the next few months and see a gleaming new European-style riverboat, it’s the American Song from American Cruise Lines, which bills it as “the first modern riverboat in U.S. history.” The vessel is showcasing itself 184 passengers at a time in the Southeast before going to the Pacific Northwest to operate on the Columbia and Snake rivers in 2019.

When the American Song leaves, a second new riverboat, the American Harmony, is in the wings for trips in 2019. A report about the American Song’s first call on Natchez, Miss., is here.
National Parks bill needs one more push for passage

Securing funds to solve the huge backlog of deferred maintenance projects throughout the National Park Service is a major policy goal for Southeast Tourism Society, and success is within sight, according to Halle Czechowski, STS public affairs advisor.

Legislation has been passed out of House and Senate committees, but the legislation’s advocates seek more co-sponsors in the waning days of this congressional session. You can help with a well-placed letter or two. Guidance is in this NPS Deferred Maintenance tool kit on the STS website. 
Utah town helps Charleston with short-term rentals issues

Garden City, Utah, and Charleston, S.C., don’t have a lot in common as tourist destinations except for the challenge of monitoring short-term rentals and collecting taxes that are owed but often dodged. Garden City’s former mayor and its city manager collaborated on a tracking program called STR Software that 70 municipalities, including Charleston, Charleston County and Folly Beach are using. Here’s a report about software that may be useful in other cities in the Southeast.
Don't Miss Out on Early Bird Pricing!
Register by Friday, October 26
Please note - you do not have to be a Georgia DMO to participate - this is available to anyone. Southeast Tourism Society, in partnership with the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus, is hosting a Group Sales Symposium on December 5 & 6, 2018 in Buford, Georgia (North Atlanta) See details via the links below.

A quote to note

Travel writing can be the counterbalance to the 24-hour news cycle that shows people that the world is not the dangerous place they may think it is  – Pauline Frommer, co-president of FrommerMedia, speaking to SATW (Society of American Travel Writers)