Coastal Georgia Tourism Discussions

Coastal Georgia Tourism Discussions


Discussion Dates

Friday, November 6th: Outdoor Recreation and Sports

Friday, November 13th: Georgia Grown, Food and Drink

Friday, November 20th: African American Heritage and Culture

Sessions will occur from 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and will be recorded.



While COVID-19 has greatly impacted our region and the tourism industry this year, we recognize the importance of continued planning for sustainable tourism to benefit both current and future generations – of travelers and residents.

Although the annual Georgia Coast Tourism Conference will now occur in April 2021, working groups can initiate discussions and prioritize activities to shape the program agenda as well as identify initiatives for implementation.

Please join one, or all three of our online facilitated discussions to identify how you can participate in shaping specific strategies for our Coastal Georgia region to maximize opportunities for sustainable tourism development, marketing, management and impact. Participants must register for each of the sessions they are interested in attending.

These pillars also allow community and industry stakeholders to hone in on particular strategies to ensure the stewardship, sustainability and successful tourism efforts for the region’s natural, historic, cultural and business assets.

To prepare participants for the facilitated discussions, the planning committee is working with experts from each of the pillar topics to share their insights, trends and opportunities in pre-recorded presentations.  The presentations will be shared with registered participants the week before the live discussion takes place. The presenters will also be on hand during the live discussions to help answer questions.

Tourism Pillar Speakers

Outdoor Recreation and Sports

George Dusenbury

Georgia State Director
The Trust for Public Land

George Dusenbury serves as the Southern Hub Director for The Trust for Public Land, a national organization dedicated to creating parks and protecting land for people. Dusenbury leads a team of professionals who are working to improve access to the Chattahoochee River, to increase the number of residents who have a park within a ten-minute walk of home and to develop coalitions and partnerships to dramatically change how Georgians interact with the outdoors.

From 2010-14 Dusenbury served as Commissioner of the Atlanta Parks & Recreation Department. During his tenure, he helped expand park acreage in the city while increasing the percentage of local residents living within a half-mile of a park. He also led an effort to reopen 16 closed recreation centers and transform them through high performing youth-development programs.

Prior to his appointment as Commissioner, Dusenbury was Executive Director of Park Pride, a nonprofit dedicated to building civic and corporate support for Atlanta’s parks. During his six years at Park Pride, the organization significantly increased its capacity while launching a wide range of programs designed to increase community capacity and leadership, bring community gardens to underserved neighborhoods, and help residents create and implement community-driven master plans for their parks. Also under his leadership, the organization expanded its geographic scope and played a pivotal role in engaging community groups and corporate partners to realize the vision of the Atlanta BeltLine, a transformative urban park and trail system.

Dusenbury first became active in Atlanta’s environmental community while serving as Legislative Director and District Director for Congressman John Lewis. In these roles, he was responsible for the Congressman’s work on transportation, clean air, clean water and smart growth issues, including expanding tax incentives supporting alternative commute options like transit and biking. During these years, Dusenbury developed his understanding of the importance of parks and green spaces in the context of equity, economics and health.

In November, 2019, Dusenbury was elected to serve on the City of Decatur, GA, Board of Commissioners.

Dusenbury earned a B.S. degree in English from Cornell University and a Juris Doctor degree from Emory University where he served as the president of the Environmental Law Society. He has been a Certified Park and Recreation Professional through the National Recreation and Park Association, is a member of the Historic Oakland board of directors and is a graduate of regional leadership programs.

Georgia Grown Food and Drink

Cheryl Smith

Agrotourism Manager
Georgia Department of Agriculture

Cheryl is a native Georgian, born in Atlanta.

She attended Clemson University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management.  She also graduated from Clemson University’s Honors Program, Calhoun College. While at Clemson she was awarded the Outstanding Student in Tourism by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.

Cheryl has been with the Georgia Department of Agriculture since July 1, 2019.

Before this, Cheryl worked for the Georgia Department of Economic Development since 1988 as Tourism Project Manager for the 17-county, Northeast Georgia Mountains Travel Region.

She is a graduate of Southeastern Tourism Society’s Marketing College, the Georgia Academy for Economic Development, and Leadership Hall County. She served on the Georgia Scenic Byway Advisory Board, which developed the guidelines and standards for the Georgia Scenic Byway Program.

She has also served on the Boards of several organizations, including the Northeast Georgia Mountains Travel Association, the Byron Herbert Reece Farm & Heritage Center and the Appalachian Regional Commission Tourism Council where she represented the state of Georgia.

African American Culture and Heritage

Heather Hodges

Executive Director
Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor NHA

Heather L. Hodges became the Executive Director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor NHA in November 2017.  During her tenure, she has placed an emphasis on developing educational programs, supporting cultural documentation and historic preservation efforts, encouraging heritage tourism, and fostering new research.  Under her leadership the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor was awarded two major grants by the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation in 2019 to assist it with developing a heritage tourism marketing plan for the Corridor and to create new systemic, infrastructure supports for Gullah Geechee heritage festivals.  She also led the development of, a new destination portal for visitors launched in 2019 that is being upgraded in 2020 with new, visitor-friendly content.

Ms. Hodges did graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with honors from the Tulane University School of Law.  She spent most of her legal career in private practice in Washington, D.C.  She sits on the advisory boards of South Carolina Sea Grant, Reconstruction Beaufort and the Charles Joyner Institute for Gullah Geechee and African Diaspora Studies at Coastal Carolina University.  She is a member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in downtown Charleston and a supporter of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, a social justice advocacy network of faith-based congregations.


Dionne Hoskins-Brown

Fishery Biologist
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

Dionne Hoskins-Brown is a fishery biologist with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and serves as the Director of NOAA Programs at Savannah State University, where she also earned her B.S. degree in Marine Biology. She holds a doctorate in Marine Sciences from the University of South Carolina. Since 1999, she has administered NOAA-funded student research training programs while researching essential fisheries habitat, African-American participation in Georgia fisheries, and approaches to increasing minority representation in marine fields. In 2009, she established the African American Fishermen Oral History Project to capture the experiences of Gullah-Geechee families on the Georgia coast through the Voices From the Fisheries database.  She was appointed to the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission in 2017, serving as vice chair that year and was elected chair in 2018.

Thank you to our Planning Committee

This conference would not be possible without the time, expertise and contributions of our partners on the planning committee.

Bryan Fluech and Emily Kenworthy, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant
Cheryl Hargrove, Hargrove International
Saralyn Stafford, UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government
Patrick Holladay, Troy University


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