It was a stroke of good luck that the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association held their annual convention here in Columbia County last week, just in time to kick off National Tourism Week.
By spreading the word about our community, those writers help build the output of the cleanest industry available: The travel industry.
Just look at the benefits: For the five counties of the Clarks Hill Lake Partnership, tourism expenditures for 2007 - the most recent year available - add up to nearly $150 million.
The taxes derived from those expenditures represents $178 per Columbia County household. That's outside money coming into government coffers that otherwise would be the burden of local residents.
Some of the benefits of tourism are harder to measure. For example, many local businesses and attractions simply would not survive if their only customers were locals. The patronage of visitors, then, helps fund quality of life improvements that local residents can enjoy year-round.
The visit from the outdoor writers isn't the only bright spot this year; the recent rains also are a welcome relief from more than two prolonged years of drought. The Clarks Hill Lake Partnership, which includes Columbia, McDuffie, Wilkes, Lincoln and Warren counties, is seeing a badly needed rise in the levels of its namesake body of water.
That rain, literally heaven-sent, is a sign that tourism for our community's largest and most visible attraction is on the upswing - and at the start of National Tourism Week, that's very good news indeed.
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