ATLANTA — Chris Sheppard, executive director of Richmond Hill Convention and Visitors Bureau, recently earned the certification of travel marketing professional after completing the three-year program of the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College.
This year’s class included 47 new TMPs recognized at the STS spring meeting in Atlanta.
The college is a professional development program that, for one week each summer, turns North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega into a laboratory to teach tourism marketing.
Tourism ranks as the first, second or third-largest industry in the 12 STS states that stretch from Virginia to Louisiana.
Course topics include special-events marketing, media relations, tourism advertising, vacation research, crisis management, heritage tourism and community/rural tourism. After the classroom work, students also must complete a project that relates to their employment.
“Our curriculum is practical. What students learn can be put to use as soon as they get back to their workplaces,” Hardman said.
The newest group of TMPs raised enough to fund eight scholarships for future STS Marketing College students.
Instructors are working professionals in the travel industry such as convention and visitors bureau executives, public-relations practitioners, sales and marketing consultants and research experts.
STS Marketing College started in 1992, and 749 people have earned TMP certification.
“This is not another program like ours in the country; we are the envy of travel professionals in other regions,” said Bill Hardman, STS president and CEO.
Founded in 1983, the STS promotes and develops tourism in its 12 member states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Other area tourism professionals who earned certification were Lindsay Fruchtl, marketing director of the Tybee Island Tourism Council; and Trisha Growe, executive director of the Port Wentworth Chamber and Visitors Center.