Last week, representatives from 26 countries ventured to east Georgia on the annual 2014 International VIP Tour hosted by GDEcD. The annual tour rotates between regions each year and affords members of the Georgia Consular Corps the opportunity to explore the parts of their represented district outside of Atlanta.
The consular team began their journey in the Hollywood of the South – Covington – where they heard from the community and from Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Deputy Commissioner Lee Thomas, regarding the economic impact, while dining at the Mystic Grill – an eatery that mimics the restaurant from the popular Georgia-filmed show The Vampire Diaries.
An extensive crowd of middle school, high school and college military students welcomed the consuls with a standing ovation at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville.
A breakfast hosted in the Thomson-McDuffie County Airport introduced tour participants to the strength of Georgia’s strong local logistics and transportation infrastructure; while a breakfast at the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation and cocktail hour at the Georgia Theatre in Athens showcased the state’s more artistic and humanitarian side.
Representing the higher education opportunities in Georgia were officials from Georgia College and State University (GCSU) and the University of Georgia (UGA). Each university hosted the tour at a key historical venue and explained the significant convergence between history, culture, education and economic development while highlighting the successes of Georgia’s past, present and future. GCSU hosted a reception at the Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville where consuls could tour the historic building and network with local education and business leaders.
In Athens, UGA officials hosted a dinner in the Special Collections Library that brought together key school representatives and the international community. Athens Mayor Nancy Denson gave examples of the many opportunities provided by the higher education system in Georgia.
The tourism and hospitality industry was displayed on a prominent pedestal during the tour. Consuls had the opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of the Classic South as they punted down the Augusta Canal, looking out over gorgeous countryside and historical landmarks, such as the Confederate Powderworks. The Ritz Carlton Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro and Hotel Indigo in Athens thrilled the consuls with their exemplary service and Southern hospitality.
Perhaps one of the most popular stops was at Jittery Joe’s in Athens where the consuls tested and selected the café’s new international coffee blend.
But the fun had to eventually end. Thankfully, the two final stops were a couple of crowd-pleasers and lunch at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce was a perfect way to end the adventure. Tour participants marveled at the Crawford W. Long Museum in Jefferson where they learned about the origins of anesthesiology, which got started right here in Georgia. And a visit to BAPS Mandir Hindu Temple in Gwinnett County – the largest Hindu temple outside of India – inspired one consul to question if the tour had stopped over in heaven.
Local and state officials had a blast introducing the Consular Corps to the little piece of paradise we like to call home: Georgia. We learned just as much as our international representatives and look forward to next year’s tour and the next incredible journey through the state that is always on our mind.
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