Governor Brian P. Kemp announced the allocation of $5.8 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to Explore Georgia, the tourism division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). Kemp shared the news with tourism industry professionals from across the state at the Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference, an annual industry event. During the event, the Governor applauded the industry’s success and recognized the impact of travel and tourism on the state.
“I’m incredibly proud of the resilience of our tourism industry,” said Governor Kemp. “While we still have a long way to go to full recovery, the fact that Georgia’s tourism industry saw gains during such a difficult year is astonishing and I am committed to ensuring we maintain this positive momentum. I’m proud to announce that I will be directing $5.8 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to the tourism industry here in the Peach State. This funding will help Georgia’s travel and hospitality industry compete in a highly competitive marketing landscape, and ensure visitors and Georgia residents alike have the Peach State on their mind for their next destination.”
Like other destinations around the world, Georgia experienced COVID-19 pandemic-related losses in travel spending, tourism jobs, and overall economic impact from the industry. However, overall visitation in 2020 nearly matched the record number of travelers in 2019. Domestic overnight and day trips to and within Georgia totaled 151.8 million visits, helping mitigate lost visitation from meetings, conventions, and international markets. For the year, Georgia gained significant market share nationally, rising from number 7 in 2019 to number 5 in 2020 among all 50 states for overnight visitation.
The impact of this visitation on Georgia’s economy supported more than 410,000 jobs across the state and created a total economic impact of $53.72 billion in 2020. Explore Georgia’s Explore Georgia from Home campaign, which ran during the height of the pandemic in 2020, recently won a top award from the U.S. Travel Association. The Mercury Award for Virtual Programming was presented on August 17 in recognition of the state’s innovative marketing campaign to keep Georgia on travelers’ minds.
During the event, Governor Kemp also announced a new slate of appointments to the Georgia Tourism Foundation Board of Directors. The group of top-level executives and business owners from across Georgia’s tourism and hospitality industry will collaborate with GDEcD and Explore Georgia leadership to drive innovative and entrepreneurial strategies designed to further enhance Georgia’s position in the global travel marketplace.
“This announcement underscores Governor Kemp’s commitment to a complete recovery of the state’s tourism sector,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Georgia is a beautiful, diverse state, and despite the challenges of the last year, with additional funding and the opportunity for collaboration with the new members of the Georgia Tourism Foundation Board of Directors, there are optimistic signs that point to a tourism industry well-positioned for future success.”
Year to date, the industry continues to see recovery above 2020 numbers thanks to Georgia’s diversity of tourism product, balanced seasonality, and the state’s tourism recovery marketing campaign titled, Ready. Set. Georgia.
While other destinations across the nation saw a sluggish rebound in website traffic after March 2020, the state’s travel website has far exceeded the competition. ExploreGeorgia.org has recorded 15 consecutive months of record-breaking traffic, with more than 11 million visits in fiscal year 2021 (July 2020-June 2021), an increase of 59 percent year-over-year.
“The leadership of Governor Brian Kemp and the General Assembly has given our tourism industry the license to operate,” said Mark Jaronski, Deputy Commissioner of Tourism at GDEcD.“We’re not immune to the challenges faced by destinations across the globe, but we have been successful in maximizing the travel business that does exist and leveraging it to grow Georgia’s share of domestic travel and economic position.”
The Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference, presented by Explore Georgia, is an annual three-day event for tourism professionals. As the first in the country, the Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference is the state’s leading tourism industry event with a track record of providing attendees the opportunity to gain access to world-class marketing strategies and leadership lessons from global experts and industry thought leaders.