Visitor’s Bureau attends Southeast Tourism Society CONNECTIONS conference

Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development, Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau; Wendy Thomas, director of marketing & communications, Southeast Tourism Society; Heather Blanchard, director of member development, Southeast Tourism Society; Melanie Beauchamp, director of outreach, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development; and Molly Brown, director of public relations & marketing, Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau

Cookeville-Putnam County Represented Among 12 States

DAYTONA BEACH –“One Meeting, Twelve States, Infinite Ideas,” is the sentiment of the 2019 Southeast Tourism Society’s CONNECTIONS Conference, taking place this week in Daytona Beach, Fl. Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau team members Zach Ledbetter and Molly Brown attended, along with nearly 350 travel industry representatives from across the Southeast.

STS, a leader among travel organizations for more than 35 years, creates an unparalleled and powerful marketing alliance of regional tourism promotion. The membership organization is comprised of twelve states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Tennessee has the third highest participation in STS, and most recently one of the largest increases in membership.

STS focuses on four pillars: Education, Advocacy, Recognition and Networking. The CONNECTIONS conference mirrors those pillars with educational sessions featuring topics such as Cutting-Edge Research, Social (Media) Listening, Data Driven Marketing, Meeting Planner Trends, Connecting Research and Advocacy, Measuring Marketing Effectiveness, Airbnb/Short-term Rental Effects, Lifestyle Marketing/Economic Development Organizational Partnerships, and Detecting Southeast Travel & Tourism Economic Drivers. 

In addition to educational sessions and networking opportunities, STS CONNECTIONS featured an industry trade show, an awards ceremony and STS Marketing College™ Graduation. During the opening luncheon on Tuesday, 62 graduates received official certification as Travel Marketing Professionals, an accolade that requires three years of professional development course work, specifically in the tourism marketing curriculum. The TMP designation was attained by Brown in 2017. Ledbetter is currently enrolled in the TMP program and is set to complete with anticipated graduation in Spring 2020.

Exclusive CONNECTIONS seminars were offered to attendees with TMP certifications. These sessions offered elevated content such as Emerging Tech Travel Trends and Marketing to International Travelers. Brown attended each of these classes. 

In continuing the growth of partnered tourism promotion, STS President & CEO Monica Smith was joined on stage during the conference by Travel South USA President & CEO Liz Bittner to share plans for the upcoming collaboration in hosting the Travel South Showcase, the premier marketplace event in the South where more than 500 tourism professionals gather for three days of intensive meetings with a goal of delivering more visitors, spending more time and more money in the South. This partnership will create an even stronger alliance of Southern tourism promotion, connecting Southern destinations, attractions, entertainment and hotels with tour operators and journalists from around the world who influence more visitor spending in the region while also building a stronger network among those tourism professionals.

“This is our first time having the opportunity to attend the STS CONNECTIONS Conference and can’t say enough about the takeaways already attained,” said Ledbetter. “The caliber of the travel industry professionals here as well as the speakers and content of the conference, the structure of sessions, and the opportunities for us to elevate the marketing assets of our community are outstanding.”

“We look forward to working more with the STS organization as well as Travel South USA in inspiring travel to Cookeville-Putnam County.”

About Southeast Tourism Society:Mission: Dedicated to improving the economic vitality of the Southeast by uniting all segments of the Travel and Tourism Industry; promoting tourism within our member states, fostering cooperation, sharing resources and providing continuing education. Vision: To create, maintain and promote a cohesive membership organization responsive to the development of travel and tourism professionals and organizations within the southeast United States of America. For more information about Southeast Tourism Society, go to

About the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau:The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, a program of the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, serves as the designated destination marketing organization (DMO) for Putnam County and is funded by a portion of the Putnam County lodging tax, a tax paid by visitors’ and collected by local lodging partners such as hotels, bed & breakfasts, etc. Ranking at 17th of Tennessee’s 95 counties, the visitors’ bureau is tasked with inspiring travel and overnight stays in Putnam County. Primary marketing pillars in drive and fly markets include outdoors; fitness/sports; motorcycling; arts/culture; and culinary/crafts. Most recent U.S. Travel Association statistics note visitor spending in Putnam County generated $2.7 million in local tax revenue, providing a tax relief for local residents with a savings of $358.47 per household.  Explore more at For more information about the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, 

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