We have had several opportunities during the past few years to provide updates about the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau. We've had lots of good news to report, including the continued growth of tourism in our county.
Two or three really great things have happened in the last few weeks that we believed we needed to share:
- Last month, the CCCVB joined tourism partners from around the state as they celebrated Tourism Day at the Capitol. The new speaker of the House, state Rep. David Ralston, joined the group for a picture accepting a "check" in the amount of $850.6 million that represents tourism's contribution to the state sales tax in 2009.
This money provides funding for many state programs that would have seen the chopping block, including a major portion of health care and education initiatives. As you'll see, this represents cash that we don't have to pay ourselves; tourists help support each one of us.
- Columbia County ranked 25th in the state in tourism expenditures in 2008. According to a Travel Industry of America study completed for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Columbia County tourism expenditures were $117.27 million. Additionally, $23.08 million appeared in Columbia County paychecks for the 1,210 folks employed in the hospitality industry (that's more jobs than the No. 1 Columbia County private employer). The total expenditures provided $4.29 million in state sales tax dollars, and $3.56 million in local tax dollars.
- What do all these stats mean to you? If it were not for state and local taxes generated by tourism, each Columbia County household would have had to pay $202 more in taxes!
The list of events held in Columbia County in 2009 was interesting and diverse. We enjoyed a wheelchair basketball tournament, a college bass tournament, the annual meeting of the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association, the Disc Golf Hall of Fame Classic, a visit from the Virginia Tech "Marching Virginians," and the FLW East Regional Series Fishing Tournament.
Besides these national and regional events, local events included the Oliver Hardy Festival, CSRA Wine Festival, Lights of the South, the sixth annual Best Dam Ride, and another wonderful year of concerts organized and managed by Columbia County Community Events. These events were enjoyed by folks here and from out of town. Many of those who attended these events spent the night, spent money in our stores, and provided us with additional resources that didn't have to come out of our pockets.
As the official Destination Marketing Organization for Columbia County, the CCCVB will continue to explore expanding target markets and develop tools that best use our resources to promote our county's assets. For more details, call me at the Columbia County CVB office at (706) 447-7677.
(Beda Johnson is executive director of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau.)
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