July 21, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Travel News
ATLANTA, Ga. (July 21, 2007)—A record 285 tourism industry professionals from across the United States are enrolled in the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College this month.

The STS Marketing College is a professional development program that for one week each summer turns the facilities of North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, Ga., into a laboratory to teach tourism marketing.

Enrollment for the three-year curriculum is up 26 percent from 2006. The program began in 1992, and 368 people have completed the curriculum and earned certification as Tourism Marketing Professionals (TMP).

“The sheer number of students shows there is a hunger for professional travel and tourism education for working professionals. Tourism is a huge and significant industry,” said Bill Hardman, president and chief executive officer of STS.

Tourism ranks as the first, second or third-largest industry in the 12 STS states that stretch from Virginia to Louisiana. Students come from many industry sectors such as convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, attractions and hotels.

Course topics include special events marketing, media relations, tourism advertising, vacation research and crisis management. Courses in heritage tourism and community/rural tourism have attracted special interest in recent years.

“Our curriculum is practical. What students learn can be put to practice as soon as they get back to their workplaces,” Hardman said.

More than 25 senior executives in the travel and tourism industry are the volunteer faculty.

Among them are Cheryl Hargrove, president of The HTC Group and associate director of National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations and customer service expert Rita Suiter from Valdosta, Ga., and Mikie Wall, vice president of sales for Cape Fear Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Southeast Tourism Society is recognized nationwide for the cohesiveness and camaraderie it fosters in the region, and no other region has a similar organization. The STS Marketing College is a major project to build the skills and professionalism in the tourism industry,” Hardman said.

About Southeast Tourism Society (STS)
Founded in 1983, the Southeast Tourism Society ( is dedicated to promoting and developing tourism to and within its 12 member states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Its headquarters are in Atlanta. The membership includes state travel offices, attractions, hotels, motels, resorts, convention and visitors bureaus, airlines, car rental agencies, newspapers, magazines and other travel-related organizations.