Is Georgia on your mind?
The fact that Georgia is one of the nation’s top travel destinations comes as a surprise to many Georgians. Our bustling cities, charming small towns, relaxing coastline and breathtaking mountain views give Georgia an appeal that rivals destinations around the world. With a number of new tourism attractions opening in the next few years, we’ll be able to offer even more activities and destinations to add to the visitor’s itinerary. Last week during National Travel and Tourism Week we announced that Georgia’s tourism industry generated $53.6 billion in business sales including direct, indirect and induced impact in 2013, up 4.5 percent – the largest economic impact for the tourism industry on record.
What could be causing this marked increase, you wonder? It’s not just one factor but a sequence of trends and developments across the state that feed our tourism growth. For instance, international travel is growing fast – twice as fast as domestic travel. Did you know that the five countries with the highest number of visitors to Georgia are the United Kingdom, South Korea, Brazil, Japan and Mexico? These international visitors stay longer and spend more than domestic visitors, so the international market is a target for us. Part of the increase is due to Georgia’s great position as a gateway to the rest of the world. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport remains the world’s busiest airport with hundreds of international flights arriving each day. And many of these international travelers are making Georgia their first stop during their U.S. visit in order to experience our global names such as Coca-Cola, Martin Luther King Jr., CNN, “Gone With the Wind,” Centennial Olympic Park and more.
Georgia’s booming film industry also plays a significant role in the increase in visitors to Georgia. The small town of Senoia, the filming location for 24 television shows and movies, from current hits like “The Walking Dead” and “Footloose” to classics like “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Driving Miss Daisy,” has witnessed a huge rise in entertainment-related tourism. Other filming destinations from Covington to Savannah to Juliette are drawing visitors from around the world to see where their favorite movie or television show was filmed.
Our tourism industry is one of Georgia’s leading economic engines. And while it’s important to showcase its economic impact – it is also essential to recognize that this industry is a powerful jobs generator. Did you know that more than 411,000 Georgia jobs are sustained by tourism? This means that 10.2% of all jobs in the state rely on tourism. Another positive impact the industry has on Georgians is that visitor spending generated $2.8 billion in state and local tax revenue in 2013, saving every Georgia household $770 in taxes – because those taxes were paid by travelers.
As more visitors discover the terrific vacation experience Georgia has to offer, our tourism economy will continue to grow – meaning increased investment, new jobs and a higher quality of life for all of us who call Georgia home.
Georgia is a leading travel destination for visitors from around the world. I encourage you to discover what’s in your own backyard by visiting ExploreGeorgia.org to plan a Georgia vacation – whether it’s checking out our events calendar, planning a weekend getaway or finding a great deal on the site – there is always something new to discover in Georgia.
Read the op-ed on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website.