After three years of specialized summer classes Amber Williams, Tourism Coordinator for the Heart of North Carolina Visitors Bureau, is nearing certification as a Tourism Marketing Professional (TMP). She has been with the bureau for nearly four years.

Williams was one of 232 tourism professionals enrolled at the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College earlier this month. The week-long program turns the facilities of the Dahlonega, Georgia campus into a laboratory to teach tourism marketing each summer. She has two projects to complete by March 1, 2011 to earn TMP certification next spring.

The curriculum covers topics such as family vacation research, special events marketing, media relations and creative advertising. Heritage tourism, community/rural tourism and green travel are courses that have attracted special interest in recent years.

"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," says Bill Hardman, president and CEO of the Southeast Tourism Society, a 12-state organization that promotes travel and tourism in the Southeast.

Twenty-three 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 Texas and Arizona.

STS, created in 1983, is headquartered in Atlanta and has approximately 800 members who represent travel industry businesses, state tourism departments, chambers of commerce, convention and visitors bureaus and travel media. Its activities include cooperative marketing programs, continuing education, professional development and travel industry policy advocacy. The 12 STS states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Heart of North Carolina Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing organization for Randolph County Tourism Development Authority, representing Archdale, Asheboro, Franklinville, Liberty, Ramseur, Randleman, Seagrove, Staley, and Trinity; and operates solely on occupancy taxes generated by overnight guests in Randolph County. For additional information, call (336) 626-0364 or go to