Tourism industry professionals, economic developers and others interested in developing or expanding rural tourism in their communities should attend the sixth annual Alabama-Mississippi Rural Tourism Conference Sept. 18 and 19 in Tupelo, Miss.

Donald Anderson of Purdue University is a featured speaker. With more than 25 years of industry experience in hospitality operations and tourism marketing, Anderson has provided expert advice to more than 350 organizations.

Another featured speaker is Mary Jeanne Packer, senior project manager for Fermata, Inc. This Austin-based firm provides communities with cost-effective strategies for using culture, history and nature to lure tourists.

This conference rotates annually between communities in western Alabama and eastern Mississippi with the focus of helping the region understand the benefits of tourism.

“The conference provides a high-value, low-cost educational experience by securing speakers considered recognized leaders in their fields,” said Tom Chesnutt, a tourism specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Culture, heritage, recreation and agriculture are all important areas of tourism development for the region. A thriving tourism industry can diversify and grow an area’s economy if managed properly.

This year’s sponsors include the Mississippi State University Extension Service, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Columbus (Mississippi) Convention and Visitors Bureau, Fermata, Inc., Florence/Lauderdale Tourism, Mississippi Development Authority’s Tourism Division, Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority, Tenn-Tom Tourism Association, and Tuscaloosa Convention and Visitors Bureau.

To find out more about the conference including registration and lodging information, visit the conference Web site at http://www.aces.edu/rtc or call (800) 457-9739.