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POSTED: June 6, 2011 9:29 a.m.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s tourism product development team made a return visit Thursday evening to Liberty County to review its tourism-improvement plan for the area.

 “All of this work was done to share with you what our experience was and what we think, in the future, the experience could be for the visitors … or tourists for the whole county,” said Bruce Green, Georgia Department of Economic Development’s tourism product development director. 

In February, the group took a four-day survey of the area to assist city and county officials in locating and using resources to attract tourists as a way to build up Liberty County’s economy.

Green ran through a slideshow for an audience of about 20 people, highlighting Liberty’s various historic sites, including old cemeteries and buildings with historical significance, which the group toured four months ago. The tourism team, which consists of nine people, takes into account many things — including culture, history, architecture, marketing and public relations, grant-writing and tourism appeal — when visiting counties around the state, which helps to give the members well-rounded views. 

“We just had a wonderful time when we were here and we think that many, many people could have that same experience. But our job was to come in and to look at your cultural, heritage and natural and built-in environment assets and to offer suggestions to the community,” Green said.

The tourism product development director’s presentation mainly focused on the overall appearance of a good product — meaning Liberty County — and how to “package” it in a way that appeals to tourists coming through the area. He suggested using signs, tour guides and other options available through grants. The visit also showed that 520 tourism-related jobs exist in Liberty County.

“Tourists do have an impact … money is tight, but there’s still some out there,” Green said of the option to take advantage of investment-tax credits and grants. The board said a full survey of the county’s historic properties is the first step to preserving the current historical structures.

As for heritage tourism, Barry Brown, the board’s heritage tourism specialist, said the county already has the Liberty Trail, but needs to use it as a resource and a guide to get people to explore the historic sites linked by the trail instead of making just one stop. Brown also suggested finding a way to make Fort Stewart a little less intimidating for visitors by providing a guide of how to easily access the base’s museums and historic cemeteries.

The audience, comprised mostly of officials and agency directors, was encouraged to use the culture within the county to draw tourists and to protect Hinesville’s tree city status by enacting stronger ordinances to prevent old trees from being cut down.

Green also suggested that various agencies, such as the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, work together to boost tourism and development.

“My initial thoughts were that they did a great job quantifying our tourism assets, which can often be a hard process for those of us who live here and see them every day, and that they have certainly given our community a lot to think about in regards to a progressive tourism plan,” said Leah Poole, chamber executive director.

 

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