Date: August 6 2008Contact: Tammy OKelley DirectorASHEBORO – After three years of specialized summer classes Tammy O’Kelley Director of Tourism for Randolph County Tourism Development Authority is nearing certification as a Tourism Marketing Professional TMP.O’Kelley has two projects to complete to earn her TMP certification from the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College after completing the third year of classes held last week at North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega. The Authority’s tourism coordinator Amber Williams completed the first portion of the three-year professional development program.O’Kelley and Williams were two of 300 tourism professionals enrolled at the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College. The week-long program turns the facilities of the Dahlonega Georgia campus into a laboratory to teach tourism marketing each summer. There is no other professional development program like the STS Marketing College and it is recognized nationally for its training of tourism leaders. 418 people have earned TMP certification.“In the tourism industry TMP certification carries a lot of weight” said Bill Hardman president and CEO of the Southeast Tourism Society a 12-state organization that promotes travel and tourism in the Southeast. The STS Marketing College began in 1992 to provide continuing education for tourism professionals. Tourism ranks as the first- second- or third-largest industry in each STS member state. Students come from convention and visitors bureaus chambers of commerce attractions hotels and other segments of the tourism industry. The curriculum covers topics such as family vacation research special events marketing media relations and creative advertising.“The fundamental concept of STS Marketing College is that the curriculum is practical. What students learn can be put to practice as soon as they get back to their workplaces” Hardman said.Twenty-five senior executives in the travel and tourism industry were the volunteer faculty. The marketing college attracts students from throughout the Southeast and occasionally from other states. This year’s program included students from Arizona Oklahoma and Texas.“The Southeast Tourism Society is recognized nationwide for the cohesiveness and camaraderie it fosters in the region. No other region has a similar organization. Our marketing college is a major project to build skills and professionalism in the tourism industry” Hardman said.The 12 STS states are Alabama Arkansas Florida Georgia Kentucky Louisiana Mississippi North Carolina South Carolina Tennessee Virginia and West Virginia. STS headquarters are in Atlanta Georgia.###