Tourism Director implements strategies locally
By Eugenia Jones
Michelle Perry, who has been Director of the McCreary County Tourist Commission for three years, earned one of four scholarships awarded by the Kentucky Wildlands to attend Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College earlier this summer in Macon, Georgia. The Kentucky Wildlands scholarship program covered Perry’s cost of attending the STS Marketing College – a value of $1,425 per scholarship.
“With the coronavirus pandemic disrupting travel and hospitality businesses, tourism is important for our economic recovery more now than ever,” Perry said. “McCreary County is a small rural community that relies on tourism revenue for growth. With an abundance of natural arches, waterfalls and recreational activities, our area offers a beautiful playground for any outdoor enthusiast. Along with our history and the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, McCreary County also offers the Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork River and Recreation Area. Each asset of McCreary County depends on tourism to generate income, which allows for more jobs and opportunities for our community.”
Perry has already begun implementing strategies she gained from her experiences at the college.
“After returning home, I realized the impact of my time at STS Marketing College and the importance of collaboration,” Perry said. “Realizing how crucial it is to build better relationships with our county’s lodging partners, I worked to organize the McCreary County Tourist Commission’s first Lodging Partner Meeting in July 2021. This meeting allowed numerous lodging partners, along with the Tourism Board, to brainstorm ways for the betterment of McCreary County. It was amazing to watch our partners get to know one another and offer helpful information to assist each other. Each lodging accommodation’s information was shared with the group, so they could familiarize themselves with our county lodging, along with plans to visit each other’s accommodation. This is what it is truly about-one county diligently working together to strengthen its community! As a destination marketing organization it is our job to promote our area as a travel destination and to make sure our partners are equipped with the information they need. This is a first step to a better McCreary County!”
The STS Marketing College is a continuing education program for the travel and tourism industry in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Instructors are industry-related professionals from across the United States, noted as experts in their field, who bring a working-knowledge of current trends, data and implementation for tourism and travel. Students who complete the curriculum over three years will receive a Travel Marketing Professional certification.
Perry values the opportunity she had to network with others in the travel and tourism industry.
“STS Marketing College was such an amazing experience and a huge opportunity for growth. The networking opportunities were a big part of the experience and a takeaway I brought back to Kentucky. Each personal connection holds value, as my classmates have now become my biggest support group.”