The event, hosted each year by bidding cities, rotates between two regional travel associations -- Historic High Country Travel Association representing northwest Georgia and the Northeast Georgia Mountain Travel Association. Marketing Director for Tellus Science Museum Joe Schulman, who served last year as president of Historic High Country Travel Association, commented on the organization and upcoming event.
"There are travel associations across the state by geographic areas and each one is formed by attractions, hotels and CVBs typically. We have meetings and we work on promoting that area of the state and bringing tourism to those areas." Schulman said. "Every year, Winter Chautauqua is held either by us or by the travel association in northeast Georgia. ... It is a low-cost, one-day marketing event where we have classes and seminars."
The conference has eluded Cartersville and Bartow County thus far for lack of meeting space. With the addition of the Clarence Brown Conference Center, adequate space is provided for general sessions as well as workshops and smaller classes.
"We have long wanted to host this particular conference but we had no facilities in our community that were large enough to host it until we opened the Clarence Brown Conference Center," said Regina Wheeler, deputy director of the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "These people are gatekeepers in their communities between visitors and products here in Georgia, places to visit, things to do. ... It gives them an opportunity to come to our community and spend some time here and be introduced."
Benefiting from the conference will be marketing professionals, business owners and government officials, including those associated with attractions, motor coach operators, restaurants, retail shops and hoteliers.
"Winter Chautauqua is always something that we think of as sort of annual continuing education for tourism. They always try to bring in experts and speakers on the latest technology, the latest tools," Wheeler said. "Destination marketing organizations such as a convention and visitors bureaus, marketing professionals maybe with the chambers of commerce in various communities -- those are the types this particular conference is geared to as well as attractions, lodging properties, basically anyone who garners the bulk of their income from tourism."
This year's theme is "The New Frontier," with an emphasis on expanding the knowledge base of professionals in attendance to take a more active role in their marketing plan by doing more of the work in-house. New frontiers include social media proficiency and marketing design; these skill sets are intended to cut costs just as the conference admission price strives to do.
"Winter Chautauqua was designed for tourism professionals in Georgia to have a place to go to learn more about their industry but something that was a little bit cheaper because conferences can get expensive, so it was always made to be an inexpensive conference that would help tourism professionals get better in their career," said Patrice Shannon, interim director of Oak Hill and acting president of Historic High Country. "The whole focus this year is called conquering the new frontier and that covers a diverse range of topics from design work in-house rather than paying someone to do it off-site. And as the economy still struggles to bounce back and budgets are cut back, people are struggling to find ways to save money."
Although sessions and workshops will be conducted on a single day at the conference center, an additional presentation will take place the night before at the Booth Western Art Museum. A panel discussion featuring local tourism and marketing professionals as well as those at the state level will discuss product development and revitalization of downtown areas.
"I think personally, the value is great. I've been two years now and I've really come away with something both years and I've really learned something I've been able to take back to my current job and it's great for networking. A lot of times, this type of event can cost you several hundred dollars," Schulman said.
Winter Chautauqua will take place March 6 and 7. The registration fee for Sunday, March 6, is $20 and the fee for the Monday sessions is $65. Early registration for the full conference is $85; if participants register after Feb. 22, the registration is $95. Registration for Sunday after Feb. 22 is $30 and for Monday is $75. For more information, contact Shannon at 706-368-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.winterchautauqua.com to register.