The Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference was held this week in Athens. Presented by the Explore Georgia, the tourism arm of the economic development office, the three-day conference was a chance for attendees to showcase their success and tourism professionals to learn the latest strategies for marketing their communities across the state. Gov. Brian Kemp joined the conference on the final day and made some news with his announcement that Georgia tourism is back and thriving post-pandemic – at least domestic tourism.

“I am proud to announce that Georgia maintained our No. 5 market share rank for domestic overnight visitation in 2021, a critically important achievement for our state’s economy and a testament to the competitiveness of our state’s tourism industry,” said Governor Kemp. “Because Georgia led the nation in a measured reopening, the leisure sector of our tourism economy continues to lead in rebounding, and our travel industry is well-positioned for future growth and success. I want to recognize our state tourism office for working with my administration to use relief funds I directed its way and generate the highest return on investment from tourism marketing in our state’s recent history.”

International tourism is much more of a sticky problem, with different countries having different Covid-related rules on international travel and likely a general apprehension about traveling internationally should one get Covid and then be stuck far away from home. Even so, that domestic rebound has mean a total economic impact of more than $64 billion to the state and supported more than 422,000 jobs. Direct visitor spending totaled $34.4 billion from nearly 160 million(!) domestic and international visitors. The industry last year matched the state and local tax revenue from 2019, at more than $4 billion.

“The economic impact of tourism we have seen in the last year is evidence that travelers have Georgia on their minds and are ready to experience our unique, diverse and absolutely beautiful state,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) Commissioner Pat Wilson. “I applaud our Explore Georgia team members, Georgia Tourism Foundation Board of Directors, and tourism industry professionals throughout Georgia for inspiring travel to and within our state as well as generating increasing levels of economic impact.”

Research from an independent company found that the “Ready. Set. Georgia.” marketing campaign is paying big dividends, with summer spending on the campaign last summer resulting in $27 million in state tax revenue. Somehow they calculated the return on investment spending as well, coming up with a number of $18, meaning for each dollar spent on the marketing campaign, $18 came back to the state.

“Despite the success Georgia has had in the domestic leisure segment, convention business and international travel remain well below where they were pre-pandemic,” said GDEcD Deputy Commissioner for Tourism Mark Jaronski. “The challenge ahead of our industry is to grow all segments of travel and deliver exceptional visitor experiences to ensure that the increased demand that we have generated converts to repeat visitation in the future.”

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