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Moving to another state and starting a job during the pandemic may seem challenging but Lake Martin Tourism Association director Brandy Hastings plans to use the community’s success during this time to her advantage.

“There is so much opportunity here, especially with all the bad in this world,” Hastings said. “It’s impacted a lot of destinations heavily but here hasn’t been affected as much. This is the type of destination people are looking for.”

While Hastings was hired and set to relocate in April, many obstacles stood in her way. However, she officially started last week and has hit the ground running.

Not to mention, over the course of the last few months, Hastings has worked closely with the Lake Martin Tourism Association board and gotten a lot of groundwork under her belt.

“I’ve been able to familiarize myself with the area working on our website and working with the diverse board,” Hastings said. “They have been super great and know the lay of the land.”

Hastings has also teamed up with Tallapoosa County Tourism director Sandra Fuller and shared resources over the last few months.

“Sandra is a great resource,” Hastings said. “She’s made the transition so much easier.”

The No. 1 goal on Hastings’ list is to really delve into the community, its people and what the area has to offer.

“I am experiencing all we have to offer here so I can best tell that story,” Hastings said. “First and foremost becoming deeply engrained in the community has to come first. I need to know the product and the people to tell the story.”

This includes the unique attractions that draw visitors to the area, such as Goat Island.

“I want to identify the unique selling points of the area,” Hastings said.

As a self-proclaimed outdoorsy girl, Hastings has already spent time at Wind Creek State Park, gotten a full county tour from Fuller and plans to spend a day on the Tallapoosa River with Chuck Browne, owner of Off the Beaten Path.

When Hastings came for an interview visit in February, she experienced Ocie & Belle’s Chili Cook-off, toured the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex, visited Wind Creek and ate dinner at Kowaliga Restaurant. But it was the people and their inviting nature that really sold her on the community.

“People were just so welcoming and friendly,” Hastings said. “I am happy to be here and I’m ready to be here.”

Hastings has been focusing on the groundwork of compiling a consumer database of tourism businesses and work toward needs and goals to help them succeed. Her goals are to share tourism products with visitors through digital and social marketing and identifying the needs of the tourism community.

“By increasing visitation to the area and showing that tourism is an economic driver, that comes with furthering the livelihood of residents,” Hastings said. “And I want residents to know the tourism story and that tourism is their friend. Tourism is there to enhance the community, not take away from it.”

Hastings believes tourism helps further a community by bringing in more businesses, as there are more needs, which equates to the creation of additional jobs.

“Tourism is a serious thing but I want to have a lot of fun while doing it,” Hastings said. “I hope the community will embrace that and be part of the fun and even enjoy a staycation in their own hometown.”

Hastings plans on being very specific and intentional on the visitors she targets with a digital campaign.

“We want to be very specific about who we target,” she said. “A lot of people is OK but we want them to be the right people.”

Hastings moved here from outside Orlando, Florida and brings many years of tourism experience. Most recently she worked for a private tourism company that focused on transportation and international travel. Prior to that, she worked for Visit Florida for about seven years where she represented the central part of the state. All the time, she has worked part-time in the broadcasting industry for roughly seven years.

“All tourism is the community together as a whole,” Hastings said. “As a tourism destination we have to figure out where we are and what it is we want to be.”

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.