First Ga. 400 was called Hospitality Highway. Now it’s being called the best travel attraction of the year.
During the Southeast Tourism Society’s annual fall meeting, Hospitality Highway was recognized with the Shining Example Award for the Travel Attraction of the Year.
The initiative, which earned its official Hospitality Highway designation in July 2007, works to promote and market special events, year-round attractions and daily activities happening along the corridor.
The initiative was the brainchild of Janet Rodgers and Dotty Etris, directors of the Alpharetta and Roswell convention and visitors bureaus, and has since expanded to include seven communities, including Dawsonville and Dawson County.
“It’s a great initiative because of what we’ve been able to do in such a short amount of time,” said Marty Williams, vice president of tourism with the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce.
“With the economy the way it is and us being Atlanta’s backyard playground, it’s a great initiative to capture those people going on short trips. We, in Dawsonville, are in the best possible location,” Williams said.
Partners of the tourism initiative now cover the full length of the state highway, from the Buckhead Coalition to the Dahlonega Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“When people travel, they don’t ever think about county lines or city lines. We know that, and really, we all benefit as the region becomes more and more of a destination,” said James McCoy, president and chief executive officer of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.
Sandy Springs, Roswell, Alpharetta, Cumming-Forsyth County and Dawson County also have representation.
Among the local attractions promoted through the Hospitality Highway Web site and maps are the upcoming Mountain Moonshine Festival in Dawsonville, Dahlonega’s Gold Rush and the Cumming Country Fair & Festival.
Dave Horton, Cumming Fairgrounds administrator, said the fair draws people from across the state, which also benefits cities along the Hospitality Highway.
“For some of our bigger events like the fair, we don’t have but two or three hotels that are located close to here and once they fill they’ve got overflow,” he said.
“So they’re going to go to Hwy. 53 in Dawsonville and down in Alpharetta. They all benefit from our events, because of us not having as many hotels here as some of the other areas do,” he said.
Though it’s difficult to count exactly how many more people have traveled to the corridor since the Hospitality Highway initiative began, Etris said they’ve received “thousands upon thousands of requests for information due to the ads we’ve placed.”
“It’s hard to track that,” she said. “But when you have that many inquiries for information, you’ve got to be getting more [tourism].
“The advertising campaign has been phenomenal. Dahlonega told us that they get more response from their Hospitality Highway ads than any other thing that they place,” she added.
Staff Writer Michele Hester contributed to this report.