While Roger Federer was on his way to becoming the oldest player in history to take home a men’s Wimbledon championship (a ripe old 36), Georgia leaders were off the court trying to bring home wins of their own from the United Kingdom.
Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, hosted a hospitality tent at the tennis tournament, giving him and Deputy Commissioner for Tourism Kevin Langston face time with 16 of the most prominent U.K. tour operators to sell Georgia as a destination. At that event, they banded together with officials from North and South Carolina, a common strategy to pitch a Southern experience to lucrative foreign visitors. Mr. Wilson also held meetings in London with Travel Trade Gazette, Trailfinders and British Airways, which operates a nonstop flight from London to Atlanta.
It’s not that Georgia is having trouble luring visitors. More than 102 million people came to the state in 2016, mostly from around the South.
International visitor totals were relatively small at about 1 million, but they spent $3 billion, a figure that eclipses the state’s total goods exports to China in 2016.
Across the U.S., international visitors spend $4,360 per trip and stay an average of 18 days. Those coming from overseas (not Canada or Mexico) account for 85 percent of international visitor spending despite making up only half of arrivals, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
Some 174,000 Brits made their way to Georgia in 2016, making it the state’s No. 2 market for inbound visitors at about 18 percent of the total, according to a blog post on the GDEcD website.
It was an opportune time for Mr. Langston and Mr. Wilson to pitch the Peach State. In May, the state announced a record impact of $61.1 billion for the tourism sector in 2016, supporting 450,000 jobs and generating $3.2 billion in state and local taxes. At the time,
A related sector, film, is also on the rise, with a British company making a significant contribution: Pinewood Studios films made up some of the 320 television and film productions that helped Georgia surpass both California and the United Kingdom to become the top feature film producer in the world, with 17 out of the 100 highest-grossing features last year.
Mr. Wilson met with Pinewood officials during his trip.