The Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau celebrated business and tourism around Marshall County on Friday, May 10. National tourism week was the same week that the breakfast took place.
Heather Green, chair of the board of directors for the Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau, spoke first at the breakfast. She thanked Julie Patton, director of the Guntersville Museum, for hosting the breakfast in her facility. She then introduced some elected officials and dignitaries that were in attendance before getting to the presentation.
“We are so fortunate in Marshall County,” she said, “and we are really blessed with everything a tourist could possibly want or need.”
She discussed the natural beauty of the mountains and the lake along with the state parks. She mentioned the museums and the cultural attractions, sports and recreational facilities, restaurants and lodging accommodations.
In her opinion, the reason that tourism is so special in Marshall County is the people. She said that the front-line people, the chambers of commerce, and the community promotes the county as a tourist destination.
She thanked members of the Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau including Katy Norton, president, and John Davis Rollings, communications director, for their countless hours and miles that they put into attracting visitors to Marshall County.
Norton spoke after a short presentation demonstrating all that the convention centers do to appeal to people interested in visiting Marshall County. She said that after watching the video, there were a lot of expo shows which showed how much they were on the road.
National championship fishing tournaments, hydroplane boat racing, a wine trail and the state park were a few of the attractions that were part of the video. Norton explained that these events brought in lots of tourism.
“We had a very busy, but very successful 2018 in the Marshall County CVB,” she said.
The industry historically measured success based on economic impact by the amount of money spent by visitors. She said that on May 20, Gov. Kay Ivey will release the tourism economic numbers at a special press conference. With all they are seeing happening in Marshall County and around the state, it leads her to believe that they had an exceptional year in tourism. She said that the county’s lodging tax revenue and number of indirect and direct jobs that are attributed to tourism and the dollar figures spent will a be a part of the report that she will be released this month.
She shared why she believes tourism matters. She explained that economics is important and used an example from the U.S. Travel Association. According to their information, shopping is the second most popular activity of tourists. She explained that shopping generates sales revenue which paves streets, pays for fire and police services and other important budget items.
The fourth most popular activity is fine dining. She said that the first question she always asks when she travels with her family is, “What’s for dinner?” and she is not alone. Forty-two percent of domestic trips includes some type of amusement and entertainment activity. All of these items continue to keep money in the local economy.
She wanted to make sure that the guests and others knew that tourism is more than just economics and tax revenue. She said that making memories is the top reason tourism matters to her and countless others who visit the community.
“Travel matters because it is no longer about a one-week summer vacation,” she said, “but about all the little weekend stops throughout the year.”
Norton said that the growing number of social media avenues have had an impact on shaping where to travel and what to do. She explained that pictures and videos matter.
“We are no longer selling a destination, we are selling a memory,” she said.
In the upcoming months, the Convention & Visitors Bureau will be developing a strategy for marking the experiences that Marshall County has to offer. She said that these changes may or may not change the logo and brand, but they will be felt in the marketing strategy, in how and who they recruit along with how they will sell Marshall County.
The Marshall County Conventions and Visitors Bureau hosted more than 20 fishing tournaments last year. She said that the anglers may or may not remember the fish they caught, but they will hold the memories that they made here.
In November, the CVB hosted the Costa Championship with 16 international anglers. She said that their photos captured more than a fishing tournament, they captured the natural beauty of the community.
Next year, in March, they will have the honor of serving as the fishery for the 50th anniversary of the Bass Masters Classics, billed as the Super Bowl of bass fishing. She said it is an experience that other lake communities wanted, but Lake Guntersville was chosen.
She explained that Lake Guntersville is a “bucket list” destination for fishing and “we have big fish in a big pond” which makes people to want to come to visit here.
Lauren Breeze is a blogger with over 50,000 followers. She was invited to visit the Main Street Music Festival last year to write about the festival. She explained that bloggers are making a huge impact on the way people travel.
Norton said that Breeze stayed at the lodge at the Guntersville State Park, visited Arab’s Historical Village and took a tour of Jules J. Berta Vineyards, but her most memorable moment was when she was able to meet and hug country crooner Clay Walker. This memory was documented in photos and shared in a multitude of ways including social media.
Norton spoke about bringing hydroplane boat racing back to Guntersville last year for the first time in nearly a half-century.
Since the lake was formed, Guntersville has been ideal for racing boats. It was a summer event that spanned multiple generations from the 1940s through the 1960s.
Norton declared that no one talked about the speeds of the boats, the teams or the engines of the boats, but people discussed where they were and what they did during their first boat race. The return of racing brought back memories of their experiences. When they announced the return of the boats, many people from the area returned along with outsiders who were interested in boat racing.
Hydrofest will take place again this year on June 28-30 and they know that economic impact will be as large or larger than last year. Norton said that last year, they saw sales tax revenue jump by $100,000 from the same time the previous year. A website geared towards Guntersville’s Hydrofest generated over 163,000 visits in three months. The Facebook page had over 130,00 impressions and 3,700 out of state tickets were sold with 11,000 people coming through the gates to see the boat race.
Her last item that she spoke about was the new facilities that are in the works for Marshall County. She explained that in 2020, Albertville will complete a multimillion-dollar sports complex that she believes will improve travel to Marshall County.
The complex will be more than just an area to host tournaments or concerts, this complex will be a place to gather.
“While 2018 was good and 2019 is shaping up to be excellent,” she said, “the future is going to be amazing. We are all a part of the tourism experience and we invite you to continue to sale our stories: one social media post at a time, one meal at a time, one overnight stay at a time, one memory at a time.”
At the end she thanked all in attendance and those that helped to make Guntersville tourism great along with mentioning all of the great experiences that will be happening in the future for Marshall County.