Governor Brian P. Kemp today applauded Georgia’s tourism industry for attracting pre-pandemic levels of domestic visitors at the 2022 Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference in Athens. Presented by Explore Georgia, the tourism division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), the three-day conference is the premier annual event for the state’s travel and hospitality industry. This year’s conference drew more than 400 tourism industry professionals from across the state.
“I am proud to announce that Georgia maintained our No. 5 market share rank for domestic overnight visitation in 2021, a critically important achievement for our state’s economy and a testament to the competitiveness of our state’s tourism industry,” said Governor Kemp. “Because Georgia led the nation in a measured reopening, the leisure sector of our tourism economy continues to lead in rebounding, and our travel industry is well-positioned for future growth and success. I want to recognize our state tourism office for working with my administration to use relief funds I directed its way and generate the highest return on investment from tourism marketing in our state’s recent history.”
In 2021, Georgia travel and tourism generated a total economic impact of $64.5 billion and supported more than 422,600 jobs. The state welcomed nearly 159.6 million domestic and international visitors, resulting in $34.4 billion in visitor spending. While international visitation has been slower to return, domestic visitation has more than fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels, totaling 159.2 million overnight and day trips to and within Georgia in 2021. The tourism industry has also matched the $4.2 billion in state and local tax revenues it generated in 2019.
“The economic impact of tourism we have seen in the last year is evidence that travelers have Georgia on their minds and are ready to experience our unique, diverse and absolutely beautiful state,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “I applaud our Explore Georgia team members, Georgia Tourism Foundation Board of Directors, and tourism industry professionals throughout Georgia for inspiring travel to and within our state as well as generating increasing levels of economic impact. Their efforts are driving innovative strategies to further enhance Georgia’s competitive position in the travel marketplace.”
Explore Georgia’s tourism recovery marketing campaign, “Ready. Set. Georgia.,” has remained a key driver for visitation to and within the state since it launched in May 2021. The state destination marketing organization is utilizing a strategic approach to allocate funds from its federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) state tourism grant of $5.8 million, which was directed to Explore Georgia by Governor Kemp in September 2021, toward the campaign. The funds have been strategically divided over four consecutive years in a prolonged effort to strengthen the state’s travel brand and open new markets for travel to Georgia. While managed as separate budgets, Explore Georgia combined state-appropriated funds with the EDA grant to maximize the campaign’s paid media impact. Results from the May-September 2021 period prove that the approach was effective, as an independent SMARI Ad Effectiveness study showed the campaign influenced $27 million in state tax revenue with a tax return on investment (ROI) of $18, the largest on record over the six-plus year history of the study.
“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Kemp and our General Assembly, we were able to maintain in 2021 the No. 5 market share position that we earned in 2020,” said GDEcD Deputy Commissioner for Tourism Mark Jaronski. “Despite the success Georgia has had in the domestic leisure segment, convention business and international travel remain well below where they were pre-pandemic. The challenge ahead of our industry is to grow all segments of travel and deliver exceptional visitor experiences to ensure that the increased demand that we have generated converts to repeat visitation in the future.”
The Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference serves to inspire excellence and elevate the state’s tourism marketing efforts by providing attendees with access to world-class marketing strategies and insights from global experts and industry thought leaders.