Gov. Nathan Deal today recognized several of the state’s top tourism professionals at the 2017 Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference on Jekyll Island. The annual industry event, hosted by the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) and the Georgia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus (GACVB), brought together more than 400 tourism industry professionals from across the state.


“The tourism industry is a vital economic engine for Georgia, as it generated a record-breaking $60.8 billion in economic impact and provided employment for more than 450,000 Georgians last year,” said Deal. “Each year, we welcome more and more visitors to Georgia, largely due to the success of dedicated tourism professionals from Blue Ridge to Valdosta, and from Columbus to Savannah. The hard work of these individuals contributes not only to Georgia’s ranking as the No. 1 state in which to do business, but helps to solidify our reputation as the No. 1 state to visit and call home.”


The 2017 award recipients, nominated by the Georgia tourism industry, include:

  • The Paul Broun Award for Marketing Initiatives was awarded to Visit Henry County.
  • The Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award was presented to Julie Musselman with GACVB.
  • The Al Burris Award for Creative Expression was awarded to the Booth Western Art Museum for the HAAS Public School Transportation Fund.
  • The Paul Nelson Award for Outdoor Recreation and Preservation was awarded to the Adventure Lodges of Georgia Program.
  • The Bill Hardman Sr. Tourism Champion Product Development Award was presented to Brews & Q’s Trail, a partnership of the Historic Heartland Travel Association.
  • The Bill Hardman Sr. Tourism Champion Private Sector Award was presented to Craig Miller, Craig Miller Productions.
  • The Bill Hardman Sr. Tourism Champion Partnership Award was presented to Visit Savannah, the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau and Visit Tybee for the Port Wentworth Visitor Information Center.
  • The Bill Hardman Sr. Tourism Champion in Government was presented to Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell R. McMurry.
  • The Tom Kilgore Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Bill Chapin, chairman and CEO of See Rock City, Inc.

“The tourism industry has a positive effect on nearly every community in Georgia, as well as providing a thriving quality of life for our residents,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “The success of the tourism industry would not be possible without the contributions of our tourism partners who work hard to ensure that Georgia is on the minds of travelers around the world.”


The Governor’s Tourism Conference provides a platform to educate members of the tourism industry about issues related to travel and tourism on national and statewide levels, focusing on emerging trends as well as ways to reinforce current tourism efforts and future initiatives. The 2018 conference will take place Aug. 26 –28 in Atlanta.


About GDEcD

The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) is the state’s sales and marketing arm, the lead agency for attracting new business investment, encouraging the expansion of existing industry and small businesses, aligning workforce education and training with in-demand jobs, locating new markets for Georgia products, attracting tourists to Georgia and promoting the state as a destination for arts and location for film, music and digital entertainment projects, as well as planning and mobilizing state resources for economic development. For more information, visit




Jen Talaber Ryan

John Vaughan