A nonprofit dedicated to supporting the travel and tourism industry throughout the southeast United States is honing its mission with support from the University of Georgia.

Over the last two years, the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development—a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach—has facilitated staff and board retreats for the Southeast Tourism Society, an organization focused on improving the travel and tourism industry across 13 states and Washington, D.C. by uniting segments of the industry, promoting tourism, fostering collaboration and the sharing of resources, and providing opportunities for continuing education.

Monica Smith, president and CEO of the Southeast Tourism Society, first reached out to Sayge Medlin, Fanning Institute public service faculty member, in 2019 to lead a retreat for the organization’s staff after Smith joined the Southeast Tourism Society.

“Sayge was very innovative in working with the staff and helped us really get to the core of what we needed to focus on in 2019, helping us to develop priorities and a framework for an annual plan,” Smith said.

Smith determined the next step for the organization was to hold a retreat for the organization’s board members, and she again called on Medlin and the Fanning Institute. Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the retreat took place in August 2021.

“Sayge really put in a lot of research and time prior to the retreat to prepare and make sure our board would get the most out of the day,” Smith said. “She designed a survey that board members completed prior to the retreat and the feedback they provided brought to my attention information I needed to share with Sayge. She was then able to incorporate all of that into the retreat.”

Medlin ensured all of the board members had a voice during the retreat and managed the process very well, said Smith.

“She did a great job of managing a group of leaders who are used to leading other people,” Smith said. “Our board gave very positive feedback and we achieved what I wanted to, which was to plan for 2022 and begin laying the groundwork for a three-year plan for the organization.”

The Southeast Tourism Society plans to build off of the board retreat by having Fanning facilitate another staff retreat.

“Sayge understands our industry and is able to ask probing questions and get us to think more deeply about the work we’re doing,” Smith said. “I was familiar with the Fanning Institute prior to this and knew they did a great job. Now seeing it through my current lens leading a professional association, I’m even more impressed with the institute’s work.”

For more information on services and programs for convention and visitors bureaus through the Fanning Institute, click here.

Writer: Charlie Bauder; 706-542-7039; charlie.bauder@fanning.uga.edu
Contact: Sayge Medlin; 706-542-4550; sayge.medlin@fanning.uga.edu