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First tourism conference aims to boost business

The first Henderson County tourism conference will feature a tourism forecast for 2013. Events like the Garden Jubilee attract crowds. The first Henderson County tourism conference will feature a tourism forecast for 2013. Events like the Garden Jubilee attract crowds.

The first-ever Henderson County Tourism Conference is designed to help retailers, restaurants, attractions and accommodations promote their business and grab a greater share of North Carolina tourism dollars, Tourism director Beth Carden says.

The day-long program is Wednesday, Jan. 23, at Blue Ridge Community College.
Carden came up with the idea of hosting the tourism conference even before she was named director of the Tourism Development Authority last summer. As director of both the Chamber of Commerce and tourism authority in Transylvania County, she saw the success of conferences she organized there.
"I did this in Brevard for six years and our tourism actually doubled," she said.
She hopes area hotels, motels, B&Bs, shops, restaurants, summer camps and other businesses that count on tourism dollars will attend the conference.
"I think it will shake things up a bit, help them rejuvenate how they approach their business," she said. "It's not a miracle worker. It's going to give them a shot in the arm and let them know they're not alone. We're all working toward the same goal."
Carden has pulled together an impressive lineup. Among the speakers are Wit Tuttel, marketing director for the N.C. Department of Tourism; Mary Jaeger-Gale, director of Chimney Rock Park; and Berkeley Young, who will forecast 2013 tourism numbers. Concurrent sessions will cover websites and social media, marketing to five generations, do's and don'ts of hospitality training, developing partnerships, using research data to make business decisions, and new product development.
"It's pretty prestigious to have the marketing director for the state Department of Tourism come and share how they approach tourism from a state perspective and how we can fit in with what they do," Carden said.
Young, who is also doing an in-depth visitor research project for Henderson County, is another highlight.
"He's going to talk about expectations and trends for 2013, so once they hear that they know better how to plan, what they should carry in their store, what kind of accommodations to offer," she said.
Advertising reps from the Raleigh News&Observer, Our State magazine and Smoky Mountain Living are coming to the conference to explain marketing options through their publications.
Part of the value is just getting people in the business in the same room.
"There's lots of opportunities in networking," she said. "A lot of people don't even know each other or have never met each other and that's what we want to change. They share the same issues so they need to work together to find solutions for that.
"We really don't want anyone to say no one's helping them," she said. "We need to empower them to seek help. There are a lot of resources for them. This is sort of a gift for the tourism industry. We're not charging them for it. There's no excuse for them not being there."
After this year's "tourism 101," future conferences will "move on up a little bit," Carden said. "We're going to be listening to the trends and see where things are going and keep them updated on that."