The president-elect ran a successful campaign promoting job creation and industry growth, but with a new administration comes a lot of new questions. One of which being how one of DeKalb County’s largest industries plays into their plan for the next four years.
In the past year, tourists have spent more than $79 million in DeKalb County — those are numbers that have grown 12 percent in the past year, and have grown consistently over the past 16 years.
So how does DeKalb County continue this upward trend? By advocating for support at the national level.
John Dersham, president and CEO of DeKalb Tourism, said Alabama is part of the 12-state Southeast Tourism Society, which focuses on promoting tourism on the frontlines in Washington D.C. — the man has served as board member for STS until recently, and he is currently serving on the organization’s policy council.
Dersham said the society recently sent a letter to vice president-elect Mike Pence as a way to introduce themselves and begin a conversation about tourism with what the man that will soon be the leader of the U.S. Senate.
“The policy council group specifically advocates for tourism in Washington,” Dersham said. “Every year, we go to Washington [D.C.] and we call on our legislators and highlight about 12-15 points that tourism is supporting, and we ask our legislature to also support that, too.”
Dersham said an example of this is the promotion of the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service. It was a campaign that worked out well, Dersham said.
He said these yearly meetings, which typically take place around June, are a way for the industry to have a voice and influence different legislation that positively impacts the tourism industry.
“Other things we’ve supported are things like the roads — infrastructure — bill,” Dersham said. “The thing about that is that tourists don’t like to travel on bad bridges and roads.
“We’ve also supported legislation to make it easier for foreign visitors to come here, because our [travel] Visa program is more difficult in the U.S.
“Every year, we have a voice, and we have people at the highest levels involved, and we make an effort to get legislators behind tourism as an industry.”
Dersham said the success of these efforts is seen through marketing campaigns such as BRAND USA, which is a campaign that was launched worldwide in order to market the U.S. as a tourist destination.
Organizations like STS, and partner organizations like the Western States Policy Council, continuously work to make sure the industry isn’t forgotten.
“Tourism is a very different sort of industry, because we’re local in that we’re trying to get people to visit us right here, but the way we do that isn’t very local,” Dersham said. “We have to go out and participate in national, international and regional ways to attract people to our areas.
“You have to be involved, and the more you’re involved, the more your voice is heard.”