The state’s efforts to lure international companies to visit and locate in Georgia goes hand-in-hand with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s strategy to increase international tourism, according to the Georgia Tourism Commissioner Dan Rowe.
“About 20 percent of tourists’ expenditures in Georgia related to business travel,” Mr. Rowe told GlobalAtlanta in an interview last week. “International travel has taken a hit in recent years; however, the need to do business trumps all [reasons not to travel],” he said.
Recent trips abroad by the department’s global commerce division, led by Commissioner Craig Lesser, and Hemisphere Inc., led by Executive Director Jose Ignacio Gonzalez, are creating interest in Georgia as a place to do business, Mr. Rowe said.
“When a business is looking to relocate here, we introduce them to tourism in the state because quality of life is important for those decisions,” he added. “People like to live where they like to vacation.”
Georgia defines tourism as travel 50 miles or more from home or spending at least one night in a destination. While most of Georgia’s tourists come from the Southeast United States, some 15 percent come from abroad, Mr. Rowe said.
Canadian tourists are Georgia’s most numerous international visitors, followed by Germans and Britons, he said.
He added that the state is working on calculating numbers of international tourists more effectively because it can be difficult to know whether an international visitor arrives in Atlanta and stays in Georgia or just passes through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Many international visitors also arrive by car from neighboring states, making it difficult to track them, he said. Georgia has initiated a campaign, however, in cooperation with the Canadian Auto Association, to encourage travelers from Montreal and Toronto to stop in Georgia while driving to Florida on vacation, Mr. Rowe mentioned.
International travelers to Georgia are typically looking for “authentic experiences,” he said, meaning they want to see real people and learn about “what it is like to be an average Georgian on the street.” Georgia has that authentic appeal, showcasing historic places like Warm Springs where Franklin Roosevelt struggled with polio, Macon with its internationally renowned musical figures or Plains, the birthplace of Jimmy Carter, Mr. Rowe said.
Other new attractions like the Georgia Aquarium and the expanded High Museum of Art have “huge draw” internationally, he added. The High Museum’s three-year contract, 2006-09, to bring works from the Louvre in Paris will be popular for international visitors, as will the new World of Coca-Cola museum when it opens in 2007, he said.
Atlanta will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the 1996 Olympic Games next year, allowing Georgia an opportunity to look at how far it has come in terms of international appeal, Mr. Rowe said, adding that the Atlanta History Center will be showcasing a special Olympics exhibition.
Some of the international interest in Georgia is coming from Delta Air Lines Inc.’s international flights that encourage travelers from the Americas and Europe to come to Atlanta, he added, saying that roughly 40 percent of Delta’s revenue comes from international sales.
Gov. Sonny Perdue’s recent conference on tourism held in Valdosta drew 375 tourism professionals from around the state to train them on Georgia’s latest tourist information. “We want to make sure all our ads and messages differentiate Georgia as a tourism destination and a place to do business,” Mr. Rowe said.
During the conference, the state launched a new slogan, “Put your dreams in motion,” to encourage businesses and visitors to come here. “Thanks for keeping Georgia on your mind” is the new campaign to thank returning tourists, including international visitors, Mr. Rowe said.
Tourism has an impact of $26 billion on Georgia’s economy, according to Mr. Rowe.
Contact Mr. Rowe at (404) 962-4000 or visit www.georgia.org for more information.