Sarah Ostuw

Sarah Ostuw, director of the Gordon County Convention & Visitors Bureau, takes a break during the Governor’s Conference in LaGrange and strikes a pose with Great Wolf Lodge’s water park mascots.

Sarah Ostuw, director of the Gordon County Convention & Visitors Bureau, attended the Governor’s Tourism Conference — “Leading the Pack GTC19” — Sept. 8-11 in LaGrange. The Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference brings together dynamic speakers, engaging sessions and unparalleled networking.

The conference also provides the attendees with the opportunity to speak to Georgia tourism professionals. With 25 speakers in place, including Gov. Brian Kemp, the conference is the largest tourism gathering in Georgia.

“As a $66.2 billion industry for the state, tourism drives significant business growth and increased revenue for companies operating in Georgia. It’s very important that our local professionals are well-trained and can perform in a very competitive market,” explained Kathy Johnson, president & CEO of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber’s Board of Directors consistently invest in effective training and conference involvement for the whole staff and we’re happy to see the employees thrive in their positions.”

Event registration opened with a fundraising event at the Wild Leap Brew Co., which was just voted the best new brewery in the United States. The evening included dinner, along with a cornhole tournament benefiting educational programming including annual scholarship opportunities for attending industry conferences.

As the event opened, a program overview was presented by the Georgia Department of Economic Development Tourism, Marketing and Communications team that covered a variety of community marketing opportunities including print and digital advertising, content marketing, and domestic and international sales initiatives.

Mayor Jim Thornton spoke for the City of LaGrange as he welcomed the conference attendees to Troup County before yielding the podium to a series of presenters.

Presentation topics included information about creating opportunities, identifying ones already in the community, tips and tricks for sports tourism marketing, ways to build a community brand, and planning to create strategic excellence.

Presentations continued with a Georgia Visitor Profile Study, which provided information about who Georgia’s domestic visitors are and their travel characteristics. Recognized as one of the state’s top industries, tourism in Georgia has enjoyed an impressive stretch of growth year after year and the Tourism leadership team from the Georgia Department of Economic Development shared an overview of strategic programs, campaigns and initiatives designed to support the continuation of that growth.

A variety of other material was presented and discussed, including hotel-motel taxation, employee engagement, visitor attraction, content marketing and community involvement. The conference closed with the Governor’s Lunch and Tourism Awards Ceremony. Kemp was the keynote speaker for the luncheon, which was sponsored by AAA-The Auto Club Group and the Tourism Leadership Council. The conference adjourned and was followed by a silent auction fundraiser.

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