Georgia’s Visitor Information Centers win international marketing award


ATLANTA, GA (September 3, 2008) – The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s (GDEcD) Visitor Information Centers (VICs) were honored with an international marketing award for their Canadian Visitor Recognition program. The National Council of State Tourism Directors (NCSTD) announced the winners of the 2008 Mercury Awards program on August 26 at the Travel Industry Association’s annual Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations. The Mercury Award honors the best in state tourism office marketing and promotion programs each year.

“It is a real honor to have our Visitor Information Centers recognized once again for their outstanding programs and commitment to Georgia’s visitors,” said Charlie Gatlin, GDEcD’s deputy commissioner for Tourism and Marketing. “This program is an example of the kind of customized service we offer to the 13 million visitors who stop by our 11 centers seeking travel information.”

Georgia’s Visitors Information Centers created the Canadian Visitor Recognition program in March 2005 to introduce Canadian travelers to Georgia. The VIC Information Specialists encourage Canadian travelers to spend the day, stay the night and explore Georgia. The outreach includes a specially-designed “Georgia Welcomes Canadians” logo on the centers’ counters and doors and on exterior and interior signage. Information Specialists offer Canadian visitors information on tourism entities who offer discounts specifically for Canadian travelers. In addition, the centers feature posters with kilometer/mileage conversion charts to Georgia cities and borders. With advance notice, litter bags, refreshments and goodie bags are made available to Canadian motorcoach passengers. So far, 69,454 Canadians have filled out the state’s guest register sheets available at the VICs.

“The weak dollar has made the United States, and particularly Georgia and the South, very attractive to international visitors,” said Kevin Langston, GDEcD’s assistant commissioner for Tourism. “The Visitor Information Centers are our ‘front door’ for Canadian visitors and this program enables us to make a great first impression, make them feel at home and convince them to stay longer and spend more.”

Last year, Georgia’s Visitor Information Centers were recognized with a Mercury award for the Hurricane Awareness and Sister Center Network programs. The VICs created a network within the tourism industry to provide evacuees and travelers with accurate information when hurricanes threaten Georgia or neighboring states. In addition, GDEcD and GEMA partnered to produce an information booklet that assists hurricane evacuees with emergency information. Through the Sister Center Network, VICs partners with the state’s Regional Visitor Information Centers to implement long-term programs for visitors.

Georgia’s Visitor Information Centers serve as a gateway to the state and are located on major travel arteries in Augusta, Columbus, Kingsland, Lavonia, Plains, Ringgold, Savannah, Tallapoosa, Valdosta, West Point and Sylvania. Travelers are greeted by information specialists who provide valuable travel information, book hotel rooms and offer directions. The state travel guide, maps, a variety of brochures and other collateral materials are available to those traveling to or through Georgia. The Georgia Visitor Information Centers work closely with the 36 Regional Visitor Information Centers located throughout the state to create a positive first impression of Georgia to our visitors.

Created in 1985, the Mercury Awards recognize state and territory tourism offices for excellence and creative accomplishment in travel marketing and promotion. The winning programs serve as models to foster imagination and innovation in the development of future destination programs. Ten states were honored with thirteen separate Mercury Awards. Entries ranged from print and broadcast advertising to niche marketing. NCSTD is an industry council of the Travel Industry Association (TIA). The awards were presented during the August 26 closing ceremony of TIA’s annual Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) in Bonita Springs, Florida.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) is the state’s sales and marketing arm, the lead agency for attracting new business investment, encouraging the expansion of existing industry and small businesses, locating new markets for Georgia products, attracting tourists to Georgia and promoting the state as a location for film, video and music projects, as well as planning and mobilizing state resources for economic development.

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