Luke Bryan makes cover of Georgia Travel Guide

Feb 01, 2016

By Brad McEwen, Albany Herald

ALBANY — Tourism in Southwest Georgia got a significant boost in exposure this week when native son Luke Bryan landed on the cover of the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s (GDEcD) 2016 Georgia Travel Guide, and the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) also received state recognition for it’s efforts to attract visitors at the annual Tourism, Hospitality & Arts Day at the State Capitol.

More than 700,000 copies of the travel guide, which highlights many of Georgia’s tourist destinations, are distributed throughout the state’s 12 Visitor Information Centers (VICs), the website, and various travel and trade shows, and help to not only lift Georgia’s profile among tourists, but also give readers a comprehensive list of area attractions and lodging information.

The guide itself is broken down by geography, with each of the state’s nine tourism regions each getting a section showcasing what that area has to offer travelers.

With Bryan on the cover of the guide, the Plantation Trace region, which encompasses most of Southwest Georgia, and of which Albany is the hub, got significant exposure, as readers and travelers, regardless of their potential destination, will immediately see the well-known entertainer and the name of his native Leesburg, itself an important part of Plantation Trace.

“We’re excited they chose Luke to be on the cover,” said Albany CVB Executive Director Rashelle Beasley. “Albany gets a lot of play out of Luke being on the cover.”

Bryan was a logical candidate to grace the cover of the 2016 Georgia Travel Guide as this year’s edition celebrates the “Year of Georgia Music,” and features information about 31 other homegrown musicians, as well as a list of what the magazine calls “vetted venues,” for experiencing live music.

“They also did a spread in the guide called Georgia Rocks which highlights our very own Bo Henry,” added Beasley. “And in what they call ‘vetted venues,’ is the Harvest Moon. So our area definitely has a large presence in this guide.”

Plantation Trace is also mentioned in another feature section of the guide called Georgia’s Outdoor Wonders, which lists Albany’s Radium Springs as one of Georgia’s top 10 outdoor wonders.

Beasley also pointed out that within the Plantation Trace section of the guide the Albany area got additional focus as two of the three pull-out highlights of the region as a whole were Albany attractions.

“On our region they did three music notes and we got two of them, Mt. Zion and Ray Charles Plaza; they’re the highlighted points of interest for our region,” said Beasley. “And they gave us some play on the (Snickers) Marathon as well.”

The unveiling of the travel guide also coincided with the opening of the new Visitor Information Center in Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, at which Albany was again mentioned as footage of the Albany Civil Rights Institute’s Freedom Singers played as a part of a special tourism video.

Beasley, who attended the event with other members of the CBV staff, said her team also received recognition from state government, including Governor Nathan Deal, while on the trip to Atlanta.

“Our delegation also recognized the Albany CVB on the house floor for doing such a great job in promoting tourism, and for our numbers being up,” she said.

The numbers Beasley is referring to are the annual numbers showing the impact tourism has on the state and local level. The numbers run roughly a year behind, so the 2014 data was just released. At the state level Deal announced that tourism has generated a $57.1 billion impact on Georgia’s economy, and a similar impact was felt locally.

The numbers show that Dougherty County saw an increase in direct travel spending, which is money spent by tourists while visiting the community, going from $218 million in 2013 to $221 million in 2014.

Tourist spending in Dougherty County also supported 2,034 jobs, created $8.5 million in state tax revenue, and generated $6.6 million in local taxes. Because of that each Dougherty County household received $369.13 in tax relief per household.

“We’re bringing in visitors and we’re bringing in tax dollars to help the local citizens to not have to pay more in taxes,” Beasley said.

The recognition at the state level was also validation for the efforts the Albany CVB has made toward help boost tourism not only in Southwest Georgia, but throughout the state as a whole.

“It definitely feels good,” Beasley said. “If you look at some other communities their tourism spending has dropped and ours has steadily increased. While we would like to see major growth, it’s good to have the needle going in the right direction, steadily upward.”

Beasley said the secret to that success is knowing how to properly use the $725,000 budgeted to the CVB each year by the City of Albany.

“We’re choosing the right things,” said Beasley. “We’re very frugal when it comes to our spending. We do research when it comes to what advertising works for us. If it’s not working for us we won’t continue it. We have to make sure we have a return on our investment.”


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