Kirksey receives prestigious Commissioner’s Award from the State

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, April 25, 2018

AMERICUS — City of Americus Director of Tourism, Nicole Thurston Kirksey, was honored last week at the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s (GDEcD) Regional Visitors Information Centers (VIC) annual conference in Statesboro. Commissioner Pat Wilson and Deputy Commissioner for Tourism Kevin Langston presented the Commissioner’s Award to Kirksey, recognizing her as an individual who works tirelessly to promote the power of tourism and as one who creates positive change in an always changing industry.
Mary Beth Bass, executive director, One Sumter Economic Development Foundation, who has worked closely with Kirksey since her arrival in Americus, says, “As someone who has spent most of their career in community and economic development, I can say with confidence that Nicole has truly been a galvanizing force in our community and a breath of fresh air for tourism in general. Hosting multiple tourism retreats a year, Nicole’s work easily represents the strongest partnership of any type in Sumter County — with hoteliers, tourism attractions, restaurant representatives, heritage and cultural attractions, municipal and county officials, elected and otherwise, as well as numerous economic development partners from throughout the County and surrounding communities.” Bass adds, “Nicole adeptly uses communication and outreach to single-handedly generate an energy around tourism that everyone wants to be a part of, creating an atmosphere of inclusion where volunteers and industry leaders are consistently looking for the next best way to get involved.”
Nominated by local and state-wide industry leaders, Kirksey perfectly fit requirements for this award. Kirksey exemplifies the characteristics highlighted by the award, as she works to develop tourism opportunities with the local government in order to improve the visitor experience, while staying engaged with local elected officials, keeping them abreast of the importance of tourism and up-to-date about tourism’s benefits to the local and state economy. She also fosters the development of imaginative and innovative marketing promotion activities at the Americus Welcome Center and at the state VICs. She has a reputation of leadership among industry peers, demonstrating strong leadership qualities and enthusiasm for the industry.
“Nicole is well deserving of this tremendous award. Her hard work and dedication to Georgia’s Sumter County is being recognized throughout the state and is greatly appreciated by our community. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with Nicole on projects that continue to make Georgia’s Sumter County homegrown, world renown,” states Qaijuan Willis, program coordinator for Americus Main Street, City of Americus.
In her position as director of Tourism for the city of Americus for just over a year, Kirksey has proven to be a leader among her peers and has met the challenges of the position. She is the epitome of a tourism industry expert, but also one who understand the importance and value of grass-roots, homegrown economic tourism development. With a tremendous amount of energy and positive attitude that is contagious, she has made a visible difference in Americus and Sumter County by increasing local industry and community awareness of the importance of tourism expenditures, spearheading the tourism segment of a massive branding initiative and creating a new marketing plan that is already seeing positive results. The proof is in the numbers. Tourism expenditures in Americus-Sumter County increased from $314,000, in 2016 to more than $338,000 in 2017.
“Receiving this award was a complete surprise. I’ve only been in the role of director of Tourism for the city of Americus for less than two years. However, in that short amount of time we have accomplished a lot,” says Kirksey, “I am honored to have been selected from among so many deserving nominees for the Georgia Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Leadership in Promoting Tourism. I hope that, moving forward, Americus-Sumter County feels a sense of pride in being a great tourism destination and that the rest of the state can see that we are here and thriving!”