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Oct. 17, 2019
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Gainesville, Hall County win trifecta at Governor’s Tourism Conference

By Pamela A. Keene 
 
With more than 500 tourism professionals gathered in LaGrange last month for the annual Governor’s Tourism Conference, Gainesville and Hall County took center stage. Not only did attendees learn that next year’s event will take place in Hall County, they also witnessed two of the county’s women in tourism garner impressive awards. 
 
Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau, was presented with the Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award that recognizes an individual for excellence in leadership among Georgia’s tourism professionals. Regina Dyer, manager of the Gainesville Convention & Visitors Bureau, received the Al Burrus Award for Creative Expression. 
 
Dickson has led the LLCVB for more than a decade, and rebranded the organization to focus on Lake Lanier as the anchor for tourism in Hall. The bureau has grown to include special events from the International World Dragon Boat Championships to regular Friday block parties in Flowery Branch.
 
Dyer has worked with the City of Gainesville’s Main Street program since 2011. She transitioned to become tourism manager for the Gainesville CVB about 18 months ago. Among the programs she has initiated, the city’s “Free Range GVL” has drawn regional, statewide and national attention. (See sidebar story below.)
 
2020 Governor’s Tourism Conference comes to Hall and Gainesville
Lanier Islands Resort has been chosen as the conference hotel for the 2020 Governor’s Tourism Conference, taking place Aug. 30 to Sept. 2. It will be hosted by the Gainesville CVB and Lake Lanier CVB. 
 
“We are so excited to bring this amazing conference back to Lanier Islands,” said Missy Burgess, public relations and marketing with Lanier Islands. “It has been 10 years since many of these tourism professionals have been here and they will be blown out of the water by all the changes and improvements Mr. Williams has made since then. And that’s not even including the addition of Margaritaville at Lanier Islands.” 
 
While the conference will take place at Lanier Islands, attendees will have a chance to see more of Hall County as well. The Atlanta Botanical Garden Gainesville will host a networking event during one night of the conference. Other events are planned.
 
Ten years ago, approximately 350 people came, but in LaGrange in September, more than 500 attendees converged on Great Wolf Lodge for the three-day meeting. They heard from keynote speaker and industry leaders and participated in tourism, marketing and educational break-out sessions.
 
Gov. Brian Kemp spoke at the closing session, citing the economic impact and importance of tourism in the state. “Tourism is a key piece of Georgia’s success story,” said Governor Brian P. Kemp. “As the top state for business for the sixth year in a row, visitors to Georgia are a crucial sector of the state’s economy. Travelers explore our outdoor activities, food, music, arts, culture, and historical venues while supporting small businesses and local communities. I look forward to the Peach State building on 2018’s record year and continuing to be a worldwide destination for those looking for Southern hospitality.” 
 
In 2018, Georgia welcomed a record 111.67 million visitors that supported 475,000 jobs and generated $66.2 billion in economic impact, up 4.7 percent over 2017.
 
Bid pays off
Gainesville CVB and Lake Lanier CVB began the bid competitive process nearly two years ago and included creating an extensive proposal and presentation. “Once the committee reviewed our presentation, they came to Hall County and Gainesville for a site visit,” Dickson said. “Then we had a meeting to go over the hosting obligations, from the availability of volunteers, to the ability to host more than 500 people with meals, transportation and ancillary events.” 
 
To announce the 2020 location, Dickson and Dyer put together a video featuring a Jeopardy-type game show. Contestants were given clues about various assets of tourism destinations and the questions all pointed to Lake Lanier, Gainesville and Hall County.
 
“When the formal announcement was made, the whole room burst into applause and cheers,” Dyer said. “We knew from the reaction that the expectations for next year’s conference are high, and we are committed to delivering. Stacey and I and our staffs are already beginning the planning. Many people don’t realize how much there is here and we’re going to show them. And we’re so pleased to be able to bring our colleagues from across the state to experience Lake Lanier, Gainesville and Hall County for themselves next year. What an excellent opportunity to showcase all we have to offer.”


Clucking it up around Lanierland
City’s tourism campaign features Dixie, Nugget, Dumplin’ and Goldie Hen
 
If you see Regina Dyer around Gainesville with a live chicken in her arms – or on a leash, or sitting on a kayak – don’t be alarmed. The chickens are the focus of Gainesville’s new tourism campaign. “Since Gainesville is the poultry capital of the world, why wouldn’t we use chickens to promote all we have to offer here?” she said. “When I first came up with the idea, people just looked at me, but once I explained that it would be Free Range GVL: Explore without Boundaries, they got it.”
 
It was this out-of-the-cage originality that earned Dyer statewide recognition at the Governor’s Tourism Conference in LaGrange last month where she was recognized with the Al Burrus Award for Creative Expression. 
 
The chickens – two Rhode Island Reds and two Golden Comets – live on the farm with Dyer and her husband. She got them in March when they were one-day-old chicks and began introducing them to the bureau’s campaign in May. Their names: Dixie, Nugget, Dumplin’ and Goldie Hen (for Goldie Hawn). 
 
“They’re all hens; we didn’t need a rooster,” she said. “And – you know chickens can lay eggs without a rooster – we get about 28 or so eggs a week from them.” She usually shares them with staff or people in the office. 
 
The campaign encourages people to explore Gainesville without pre-conceptions or restrictions. “It’s an excellent way to broaden people’s approach to visiting here,” she said. 
 
The chickens have been a big hit, as evidenced by Dyer’s and Gainesville CVB’s recent award.
“When people see me out with them, I always get phone calls,” she said. “They are certainly attention-getters. They’ve walked on leashes at Wilshire Park, sat on a bag of golf clubs and even had their picture taken at the Quinlan (art center) looking at portraits of themselves. They’ve been excellent mascots for tourism for Gainesville.”

Posted online 9.27.19
 
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