As most Georgians know all too well, the Great Recession that sapped the nation’s economy was especially harsh here. The state’s fiscal house sustained even more damage than in most other states, with deep and sometimes devastating cuts in state budgets and huge private sector losses.
Now, after three years of tough economic times, it appears one of Georgia’s most dependable economic assets is ... Georgia.
According to U.S. Travel Association statistics, recession-battered Georgia saw an impressive increase in tourism spending in 2010: a whopping $21 billion. Not only is that 8.3 percent more than was spent here in 2009, but it actually set a record — beating the previous one that had been set before the recession.
Apparently the economic damage hasn’t made Georgia any less appealing a destination.
It appears to be a destination especially popular with folks from far-flung places. The jump in spending by foreign tourists in Georgia was even higher than the overall increase — at 15 percent, almost twice as high. That is borne out in statistical breakdowns that show the biggest gains in transportation: airlines, buses and cruise ship spending up a combined 11 percent, and automobile transportation up 13 percent.
Another part of the happy surprise (if indeed we should consider Georgia’s appeal a surprise at all) is that the dramatic increase in tourism income came precisely when the state could least afford to promote its attractions: According to Morris News Service, the Department of Economic Development’s tourism office was hit with even bigger budget cuts than most other state offices.
Yet visitors came here anyway.
But whether visitors are here for weeks after arriving in an airliner or cruise ship, or for a short weekend to catch a Braves game or visit Callaway Gardens, it ultimately doesn’t matter how you market if you don’t have something worth selling. Georgia has plenty.
— Online: www.ledgerenquirer.com