HISTORY OF TRAVEL SOUTH USA
On February 10, 1965, travel directors from eight Southern states -- Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia -- decided to form a coalition entitled the Southern Travel Directors Council (STDC) to exchange information about the operations and promotions of their state travel offices. At the sixth annual Georgia Governor's Conference on Tourism, the group met to discuss budgets, share staff job descriptions for welcome centers (only one state -– Georgia – had them at the time), consider joint advertising programs and how to garner legislative support for a film commission. Two states – Kentucky and Arkansas – were voted into the regional organization at the second council meeting.
STDC was incorporated June 18, 1968, at the Southern Governor's Conference to recognize the 11-member state's coalition. Each state tourism office paid annual dues to the organization, with the travel directors serving on the governing board. The Travel South USA tagline was developed for advertising and promotional purposes.
In July of 1998, a new state was added to the membership of Travel South - West Virginia, making it the first state to gain entrance into the organization in over three decades. Missouri was added as a member in 2014 bringing the total number of member states to twelve.
Initially, the group focused on education, research and sharing travel promotion information -- for the directors as well as external audiences such as legislators and key consumer and trade markets. At the Southern Governor's Conference held on Sea Island, Georgia in 1965, the first panel on tourism was featured as part of this group of political leaders' annual program. This panel led to a new call for international relations within the tourism industry with their first outreach to Mexico and Canada. The following decades adapted focus to Switzerland, the UK, Japan, Brazil and currently throughout the Ontario, Canada region.
The first project undertaken by the newly-formed council was an advertising campaign in "Holiday" magazine. Never before had a group of states jointly advertised their travel product. Each state contributed an equal amount for Southern ads to run exclusively in the monthly magazine. The ads spotlighted a member state each month while promoting the South as a vacation region. A post office box was rented for inquiries and the 1,670 readers requesting information were mailed a survey on vacation habits. From the survey, the states determined destination preferences, key markets, demographics and characteristics of their travel. For this program, the STDC was awarded the Golden Horseshoe Award by Discover America (now the Travel Industry Association of America or TIA) in 1968. Soon after, the organization introduced new marketing programs including Miss Travel South USA, vacation giveaways on game shows as well as public service announcements, and finally, in 1983, the first annual Travel South Showcase was debuted in Tampa, Florida beginning a future of exclusive marketplace success for the tourism and hospitality industry.