For those of you who are familiar with the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CCCVB), I should be a familiar face. For those who are not, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Shelly Blackburn and I have been with the CCCVB for over eight years. I began my career as an intern and worked my way up to the position of associate director. This year I was honored to be selected as the new executive director. With the exception of my time in college, I have lived my entire life here . And I wouldn't have it any other way. I have grown up alongside this thriving county and I am profoundly proud to call this my home.
Tourism is a big business for Georgia and Columbia County. It is the fifth largest employer in Georgia. With a total economic impact of $58.9 billion, the tourism industry supports 439,000 Georgia jobs. In 2015, tourism generated $3 billion in taxes. Yes, you read that right, billion with a B! Many people may be surprised to learn Columbia County is ranked 27th out of 159 counties in the state for tourism expenditures. In 2015, Columbia County's tourism industry supported nearly 1,200 jobs and generated $137.9 million dollars in direct tourist spending. Each Columbia County household saves $210 per year, thanks to taxes generated by tourism.
So what is the CCCVB, and what do we do? We serve as the storytellers of our community. With the launch of two new hotels in 2016, we now tout nearly 1,200 hotel rooms in the County. With the passing of the General Obligation Bond we will see the expansion of the Euchee Creek Greenway, new parks, a cultural center, history museum and many more lifestyle projects. Not to mention the excitement around new developments like Mullins Colony and The Plaza. The CCCVB plays a vital part in telling the story of that growth by implementing successful destination marketing strategies. It is our job to attract visitors, meetings, groups and events which generate overnight lodging in Columbia County. While here, these visitors spend dollars on gas, food/beverage, lodging and retail sales.
We know it only takes one trip to Columbia County for someone to fall in love with our area. We are working hard, one day at a time, to create as many fans of Columbia County as possible.