Tourism is big business in Georgia. Forty-eight million visitors spend over $25 billion annually here. This supports $6 billion in resident wages and over 400,000 jobs (200,000 tourism related jobs). It has also saved taxpayers over $708.5 million in state tax revenue from visitor expenditures. This equates to a $380 savings on state and local taxes per household.
Comparisons to other states
In Georgia, the tourism program is administered by the Department of Economic Development. The purpose of the tourism program is “to provide information to visitors about tourism opportunities throughout the state and encourage tourism expenditures.” Last session, FY08, the General Assembly appropriated $21.1 million for the program. This marked the fourth consecutive year in incremental increases for tourism by the General Assembly. In addition, SB 125 from the 2005-2006 session established the Georgia Tourism Foundation. Its purpose is to promote tourism through a state-wide tourism marketing program. This kind of support from the General Assembly assisted in Georgia becoming the eighth largest tourism economy in the country today.
In 2005, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), Georgia ranks 8th in the country in travel and tourism expenditures with $16.6 million (up 7.7 percent from 2004). Of the Southeastern states, Georgia only trails Florida ($61.1 million) in travel and tourism expenditures. Virginia is the only other Southeastern state within the top 10 ($15.5 million). TNS TravelAmerica also ranks Georgia in the top 10 (10th) for the total visitor volume. Florida (third) and North Carolina (sixth) are the only Southeastern states ranked ahead of Georgia.
In a report comparing state competitive budgets, TIA ranked Georgia 26th with a total project budget of $11.4 million for FY06-07. As stated earlier, the General Assembly has increased the tourism budget to $21.1 million in FY08 (HB95). Therefore, using TIA’s report numbers, Georgia would jump to nine in the U.S. for tourism budget rankings if other state tourism budgets have not significantly increased for FY08. Furthermore, this increase would rank Georgia second in Southeastern states as compared to other states’ tourism budgets.
City of Atlanta
The City of Atlanta accounts for 51 percent of Georgia’s tourism economy. Annually, Atlanta receives over 35 million visitors that spend more than $11 billion ($29 million per day in direct spending). These numbers help sustain over 238,000 jobs and employs 9.3 percent of metro workers in the leisure and hospitality industry. In addition, D.K. Shifflet & Associates, a Virginia-based research firm that specializes in tourism data, has Atlanta tied for first place (with Orlando, New York and Chicago) in the number of visitors a major city attracted in calendar year 2006. Some of the contributing factors include Atlanta’s lodging market, the Georgia World Congress Center and other attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium, Stone Mountain and sports and entertainment venues in the Georgia Dome and Philips Arena.
The balance of 41 percent of tourism dollars are spread around the state. For example, the Welcome Center in Savannah was the busiest of the 11 state centers last year.
Georgia’s plan for the future involves growing the tourism industry to move Georgia up to fifth in destination states.
Useful Web sites
Visit the Legislature’s Home Page at www.legis.state.ga.us
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