A record tourism year in which Georgia saw 111.7 million visitors spending $36.9 billion in the state was bolstered by the growing international segment, where stays tend to be longer and spending levels higher.
The nearly 1.4 million international visitors, up 1.4 percent from the year before, may seem minuscule in comparison to the massive domestic numbers, but their spending in the state totaled more than $2 billion. That puts it higher than all but four of Georgia’s goods export markets.
Broken down per visitor, the figures further show the outsized importance of foreigners. They spent $1,428 in the state on average, more than four times more than the domestic visitors’ $316, according to Global Atlanta calculations based on state numbers compiled by research firm Tourism Economics.
About 30 percent of foreign visitors, some 415,000 in all, came from Canada, the No. 1 source market, which is categorized along with Mexico separately from the “overseas” countries that don’t share a land border with the U.S.
Mexico stood at No. 4 with 54,700 visitors, barely edging out India, which grew at 3.4 percent to jump China and claim the No. 5 spot at 53,900 visitors.
The top markets outside North America by far were the United Kingdom and Germany, which each sent more than 100,000 visitors to Georgia. Both of those countries — in that order — also topped the spending list at $207.4 million and $174.3 million, despite the fact that Canada sent four times the visitors. Gov. Brian Kemp touted Germany’s tourism impact in January while opening a new economic development office for Europe in Munich, where the state has two contractors working on tourism promotion.
Among large inbound markets, only China saw a substantial reduction by nearly 9 percent to 51,700 visitors, perhaps related to the uncertainty around trade, as well as student enrollments that grew less quickly in 2018 than in previous years. Trips for business and family visits count toward the overall totals. It might be hard to win more Chinese travelers this year, as many countries including the U.S. have temporarily barred visitors from the country due to the coronavirus outbreak.
On the bright side was Brazil, which sent 21.4 percent more travelers to Georgia, landing at 47,600. The rest of South America followed suit, with a combined 19.9 perfect growth to 45,200 visitors. The Caribbean posted strong visitors numbers as well, growing 15 percent to 40,900.
Japan was down 10.6 percent to 28,700, placing the country just out of the top 10 by visitor totals, yet the country was still an important tourism export market, ranking eighth in spending by running a tab of $2,428 per person on average.
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The state unveiled the overall tourism numbers during a Jan. 21 event at the State Capitol, where industry leaders presented Mr. Kemp with a large check representing the $3.4 billion the sector contributed to tax revenues in 2018.
Also introduced at the event was the 2020 Explore Georgia Travel Guide, which is available at the state’s 11 visitors’ centers or can be viewed online here.