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OUR VIEW: Tourism at the state, local level

In today’s paper, we wrote our final story on the Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference, which was held at Great Wolf Lodge Georgia the past few days.

The conference brought marketing and tourism professionals from around the state to LaGrange, where they had a chance to see all our city has to offer. In years past, it would’ve been unlikely for LaGrange to be awarded a conference this big, where an estimated 512 people attended and spent four days and nights in our city.

However, the addition of Great Wolf Lodge changed that, as the conference center gave LaGrange the perfect place to hold a large gathering, and perhaps just as notably, it was not even the largest conference the resort has hosted in the year and a half since it opened.

On Wednesday, Gov. Brian Kemp closed the conference with a speech that outlined the economic impact of Georgia’s tourism industry on the state. Both LaGrange and the state as a whole have seen a significant increase in tourism in recent years, and that increase is good for the people who live here. Visitors spend money in our community — at our favorite local restaurants, at the store downtown where the shop owner knows locals by name, at the hotels and resorts where our friends and family work. 

Beyond that, every time a visitor swipes a card at checkout in LaGrange, they are helping pay for repairs to a road damaged during a recent storm, for construction on the next segment of The Thread, for renovations at the local tennis center, for crews to create a functional new park space and too many other projects to list it this limited space. 

Yes, those people wandering through downtown LaGrange in wolf ears are helping our local economy one vacation at a time.

At a state level, travel and tourism generated more than $3.4 billion in tax revenue in 2018 alone, and in the same year generated a record breaking $66.2 billion in business sales impact, according to state figures.

In terms of impact, those numbers mean that every Georgia household would need to be taxed an additional $910 per year to replace the tourism taxes received as a result of the industry’s tax contribution, according to state estimates.

We are excited to have a front row seat to what we — with some admitted bias — feel is an important part of state tourism, right here in LaGrange  as the area continues to attract more visitors each year.

We look forward to seeing what comes next in this, America’s greatest little city.