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Slimmed-down, retooled CVB sets goals through 2015
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Listen as Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown talks about a few of the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau’s newly set goals with City Council last week.

Moving offices, reducing staff in a tough economy and dealing with a split with the city of Gainesville consumed much of the past 12 months for the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The organization now is trying to focus more on the future, setting “Fantastic Five” goals to meet between 2011 and 2015.

“We’ve been through such a metamorphosis this past year, I feel like we’re getting on a more stable footing,” said Stacey Dickson, president of the organization.

“It’s a vision of being able to do what we’re best at, instead of kind of getting bogged down in a lot of the administrative things we’ve been having to go through.”

The bureau has set these goals:

  • Work toward a new visitor information center off Interstate 985 in Oakwood.
  • Develop a multifaceted public relations and marketing strategy.
  • Develop and promote tourist destinations.
  • Find new and different revenue sources.
  • Develop and nurture partnerships, such as with Gainesville.

“These are things we really get pumped up about,” Dickson said. “There are two of us doing the work of seven. We’ve scaled back and made more realistic expectations of what we can accomplish.

“By scaling back and re-prioritizing our goals, it’s made it where we can have achievable objectives where we can see results in the things we’re doing.”

The bureau’s newly named chairman, Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown, talked about the CVB’s goals with Oakwood City Council last week.

“We think there is work to be done to try to define destinations ... and try to push those and create a new product,” Brown said.“Film has become a big thing in Georgia. That’s one of the things we’re working on.

“Hotel and land development is another piece of this. We’re going to try to work with the cities, particularly in the South Hall area, to identify good locations for potential hotels and convention centers, things like that.”

He also spoke about the agency’s loss of revenue when Gainesville severed financial ties with the CVB and Main Street Gainesville to instead market its own facilities and create its own Main Street program.

“We’re going to be looking at ways to be innovative,” Brown said.

“When there are special events, the CVB can help staff and coordinate some of those events and there may be some payments for that. If we can sell packages for different destinations, there may be some payments that come in on that.”

At the same time, the CVB can’t hold a grudge against Gainesville.

Brown, speaking after the council meeting, said he believes it is key for the CVB to foster strong relationships with all area tourist agencies and attractions.

“We are basically in the same community and we want to make sure we work cooperatively,” he said. “We definitely have the same interests at heart — enhance tourism and develop that part of our economy here.

“We’ve got a great asset with the lake, and we all benefit from that.”

Dickson said the hospitality and tourism marketing department at Clemson University in South Carolina is helping the CVB with a study to evaluate “emerging trends of visitor services ... around the world.”

“What we found in the last year at the center on (Interstate) 985 is that visitors’ travel habits have changed dramatically in a very short period of time,” she said, citing such influences as the Internet and GPS devices.

Students are going to help “us form that vision and from that is what we’re going to come out with on the other end, as far as the design of the (visitor center),” Dickson said.

“We don’t want what’s already been done, what’s not working. Industrywide, there are visitor centers all over the place — new state-of-the-art centers — that are just hemorrhaging. They can’t afford to stay open,” she said.

She said she hopes when the Clemson collaboration is finished, other visitor centers across the country “will look to our (center) as a model.”

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