Travel

Georgia to spend $5.8M in pandemic relief to support tourism

Georgia will spend $5.8 million in federal COVID-19 relief to help bolster the state’s tourism industry, Gov. Brian Kemp announced this week.

Kemp said the funding, being given to Explore Georgia, the tourism division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), would help the industry rebound.

“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,” Kemp said Wednesday during Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference.

Officials said Georgia experienced similar visitation numbers in 2020 as in 2019 despite shutdowns and other COVID-19 restrictions. Explore Georgia data shows domestic visitation was 151.8 million trips in 2020 compared with 150.9 million in 2019.

GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson told lawmakers in January that Georgia had lost billions of tourism dollars and had seen massive industry job loss because of the health crisis. Budget writers approved $1 million in an advertising campaign and marketing grants for local development agencies in the 2021 fiscal year budget.

About three dozen organizations in 27 Georgia counties received nearly $1.5 million combined for marketing in June as part of a state- and private-sector-supported grant program to restore tourism in the state.

“I’m incredibly proud of the resilience of our tourism industry,” Kemp said. “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.”

Officials said visitors supported more than 410,000 jobs and created an economic impact of $53.72 billion in 2020. Wilson said the industry has seen improvement this year above 2020 levels.

Travel expenditures in Georgia totaled $2.6 billion in June, reflecting a 7% month-over-month increase and 58% year-over-year increase, officials said. It was the highest monthly expenditure total Georgia has experienced during the pandemic, Explore Georgia said.

Georgia’s road travel volume was up 24% compared with 2020, and up 2% compared with 2019 in July, data showed.

“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,” Wilson said.

This article was originally posted on Georgia to spend $5.8M in pandemic relief to support tourism