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Hundreds expected at state tourism conference
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Stacey Dickson, left, president of Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Jennifer Miller, sales manager with the bureau, unpack decorations Friday for the Governor’s Tourism Conference at Legacy Lodge at Lake Lanier Islands. The conference begins Sunday and runs through Wednesday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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Listen as Julie Musselman, executive director of the Georgia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus, talks about the conference.

Governor’s Tourism Conference

What: A gathering of some 350-400 Georgia tourism and hospitality leaders

Where: Lake Lanier Islands Resort, 6950 Holiday Road, Buford

When: Monday-Wednesday

For more information: www.georgiagtc.com

Some 350 to 400 people are expected to arrive for the three-day Governor’s Tourism Conference next week at Lake Lanier Islands resort.

The conference will feature leaders in the statewide hospitality and tourism industry. They’ll be attending workshops, hearing from national speakers and basically meeting with one another.

And, as the name suggests, Gov. Sonny Perdue is scheduled to speak at noon on Wednesday at Legacy Lodge and Conference Center.

"I would hope that by getting folks together at this conference who may not normally be together, they can become energized ... to carry their message in their own community," said Julie Musselman, the conference meeting planner.

The Georgia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus, which Musselman also serves as executive director, is sponsoring the annual conference with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s tourism division and the Tourism Development Alliance of Georgia.

The groups held separate annual conferences until last year, when they held their first joint conference in Albany.

They found that "if we pooled our resources, we could have a better program, a higher caliber of speakers and one dynamic conference," Musselman said.

Stacey Dickson, president of the Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, "Economic times kind of dictated (the joint conference), but it ended up being a really wonderful way for us to go."

She added, "It’s a blessing to have it close to us."

Lake Lanier CVB initially bidded on holding the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus’ winter meeting.

"Our bid was so well received that the group came back to us" and asked if the organization could handle the governor’s conference instead.

"After a big gulp, we said, ‘We’ll try,’" Dickson said.

After all, she noted, the conference serves as the largest annual meeting of the hospitality and tourism industry leaders in the state.

"It’s a pretty big deal for us to have it, and we’re really excited about it," Dickson said.

She said she believes the massive redevelopment of Lake Lanier Islands has stirred plenty of interest.

"People are curious. They want to see how (the project) is coming along and what’s happening there," Dickson said.

The Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority "has been supportive of us in working out the details to make this conference happen," she said.

Musselman said the CVB presented a "fabulous bid" for the event.

"I came to Legacy Lodge for a site visit and saw that the facilities would be perfect for the meetings," she said. "The meeting space and food and beverage were great and the setting is beautiful."

The bidding process took place last spring and summer, and the conference planning began in September.

The work has continued busily this week.

"The phone has been ringing like crazy," Musselman said.

All the effort has been worth it, she said.

"I think it’s important that the tourism industry is recognized," Musselman said. "Tourism is economic development and to be recognized as an industry once a year, I think, is very important."

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