Efforts ramp up to promote Bartow County tourism
by Matt Shinall
Mar 27, 2013 | 867 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bartow County and downtown Cartersville are seeking the participation and input of residents and business owners on the issues affecting the tourism and hospitality industries.

From restaurants, shops and service providers to hotels, motels and museums, the Bartow County Hospitality Association is looking to grow membership and collaboration for the promotion of local businesses. At the same time, the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority has launched an online survey to gather feedback from residents, guests and stakeholders about the strengths and weaknesses of the downtown district.

Leading the charge in these efforts is Cartersville DDA Manager Tara Currier. Finishing up a three-year program with the Southeastern Tourism Society Marketing College, Currier graduated earlier this month as a certified Travel Marketing Professional.

“There is not another program like ours in the country; we are the envy of travel professionals in other regions,” said Bill Hardman, president and chief executive officer of STS in a press release. “Our curriculum is practical. What students learn can be put to use as soon as they get back to their workplaces.”

For Currier, those applicable lessons range from research and analytics to social media and online promotions, but the greatest tool she found that has not yet been fully utilized by local businesses and organizations is the power of collaboration.

“It’s really exciting. Each year, it focuses on all the areas of travel and tourism marketing from research to partnerships with hoteliers and restaurants, analyzing and understanding the industry and diving into the numbers of how tourism impacts our communities, statewide and nationwide,” Currier said. “As much as anything, I learned about the importance of strategic partnerships. Obviously strategic partnerships are good in any industry, but in the tourism industry, we can put together packages for people coming to our area by providing a museum, hotel and restaurant package.

“The goal is, in my case, to get people into downtown Cartersville, and in the future, I’d like to put packages together. ... But thinking more creatively and working together is one of the biggest things we can do.”

In concentrated efforts, such as the promotion of downtown, collaboration can be seen in regional and national magazines where merchants split the cost of advertising space in a cooperative ad campaign highlighting the shops, restaurants and attractions of downtown Cartersville.

For Bartow County businesses with ties to the tourism and hospitality industry but outside of downtown Cartersville, Currier urges participation in the Bartow County Hospitality Association. Currier co-founded the Bartow County Hospitality Association in 2011 along with the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau, including Cartersville’s first TMP, Deputy Director Regina Wheeler. After a brief period of transition with the birth of her first child earlier this year, Currier is looking to increase membership and revitalize the Bartow County Hospitality Association.

“With me going on maternity leave, it kind of went on hiatus for a couple of months, but we did have a re-evaluation meeting in December and sent out some surveys to association members. So we know it’s perceived as being a great asset, but our numbers just aren’t there,” Currier said. “So I want to encourage anyone — our hoteliers, our restaurants, mom-and-pop shops — everyone needs to come to the table so that we can strategically come up with ways to enhance our tourism efforts throughout the county. At our meeting this Thursday we’ll focus on the Atlanta Steeplechase.”

The Bartow County Hospitality Association will meet Thursday at 8:30 a.m. at the Clarence Brown Conference Center, 5450 Ga. Highway 20, and will meet every fourth Thursday of the month. For more information, or to RSVP, call the DDA at 770-607-3480.

As the Cartersville DDA steps up its efforts to attract visitors, it also is seeking input from residents, guests and business owners on their perception of downtown. To do this, the DDA is employing an online survey to help create a downtown master plan.

Survey feedback will be incorporated into downtown Cartersville’s first master plan with help from Cartersville City Planner Richard Osborne. A master plan is aimed at specific cities, communities or districts to give direction, guidance and a mission for current and future endeavors. While some goals gleaned from the survey may be implemented immediately by redirecting existing marketing and promotion efforts, other plans may be longterm requiring time and money to study and execute, including perennial problems such as traffic and parking.

“Ultimately, we want to get a better feel for what the community feels are the strengths and weaknesses of downtown,” Currier said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve heard people think ‘x’ is wonderful about downtown or that having ‘y’ would make it better. So this will just be a more formal way to get that information in a way that we can analyze it to make a plan for the future.”

The brief survey will only take a few minutes to complete and is available online through a link on the city of Cartersville website. Visit www.cityofcartersville.org and click on the link under “News Flash” on the right side of the home page.