When it came time for state officials to pick four sites across Georgia for their series of seminars on Heritage Tourism, they had a choice of any county. McDuffie County was selected as one of those host sites, said Gerald Baygents, director of tourism for Thomson McDuffie.
"Any opportunity we get to showcase our community and what we do is welcome. The fact they chose us is an honor," he said.
Officials from three state groups met with Mr. Baygents Feb. 17 to hammer out details of the seminar which is planned for July 28 and 29.
Officials from the historic preservation division of the Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Trust (a historic society) and the tourism division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development began arranging the seminar after a visit to the city of Thomson last week.
"We absolutely loved it," said Bruce Green, tourism product development manager for the GDED.
"There was so much to see and so much to experience. We didn't want to leave."
He cited the beautiful architecture of the downtown spaces and the rich history of the area as factors that led officials to choose Thomson.
"Not all areas have that kind of depth," he said.
The 70 individuals who attend the one and a half day event will get to view that history for themselves as they spend an afternoon touring Thomson.
The seminar will focus on subjects such as what heritage travelers are looking for and the need to maintain historical and architectural authenticity.
Research from the Travel Industry Association shows heritage travelers to be well-educated individuals who stay longer and spend more than average tourists, Mr. Green said.
They value authenticity, so there is great potential for places like Thomson, rich in genuine history to interest those travelers.
The seminar will also cover subjects like developing, marketing and packaging heritage tourism products.
Georgia Tourism Deputy Commissioner Janis Cannon will be among the distinguished attendees along with Patrick Brennen of Georgia Trust and Ray Luce of the Georgia Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Natural Resources. Ms. Cannon recently visited Thomson when she served as keynote speaker for the annual Thomson McDuffie County Tourism retreat.
"This is a big chance for us to shine," Mr. Baygents said during the regular tourism board meeting last Thursday.
There is a $50 registration fee for the seminar, and local individuals interested may contact Mr. Baygents at 597-1000.