The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tourism Product Development team stopped in Hinesville this week for a four-day trip to assist city and county officials in using resources to attract tourists to the area.
Team members met with elected officials Tuesday evening at the MidCoast Regional Airport to mingle, chat about their impressions of Liberty County and give short speeches about their desires to bring more attention to tourism in the county.
"I really like coming down here because I like working with people who actually get things done," Commissioner John Cheek of Atlanta Urban Design Commission told the crowd of about 40 people.
Originally, the team was to come two years ago, but had to reschedule, Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Director Vicki Davis said. The team is comprised of professionals from the state level who focus on various interests that pertain to tourism, including community affairs and historic preservation, Davis said.
"Tourism is a communitywide issue. Developing a tourism draw includes cultural, historic, recreational, nature, business, etc., opportunities. The local governments — municipal and county — are very much involved in the process as well as organizations and privately owned facilities and businesses," Davis said. "The assessment and recommendations by the resource team will help us to collectively develop a plan to increase our tourism draw by improving sites, reaching a larger market with promotional activities and realizing the economics of tourism that will, in the end, benefit our community financially as well as edify the quality of life for us all."
The team, led by Georgia Department of Economic Development tourism product development director Bruce Green, came to Liberty County and toured several historically significant spots to give the group an idea of how to boost tourism in the area.
"[Liberty County] is incredibly rich in tourism product," said Carey Ferrara, regional tourism representative for the Georgia coast. "You’ve got so much. It’s exciting to see all of this."
After the countywide planning session last year, local leaders chose tourism as a goal to focus on for 2010 through 2011 to help with growth.
Leah Poole, executive director of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, gave the group a tour that included stops at Yellow Bluff, Dorchester Academy and the Midway Museum, among other locations.
On Thursday morning, the team met briefly with county and city officials to identify current resources and how they can be implemented in the future. A larger, more in-depth presentation will be offered by the team in April and it will include a plan for the next two years, Poole said.
"They’re just so excited," the chamber director said of the team that offers the services for free. "There’s value to have an outsider’s opinion."