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Laura Jennings

LaGrange – Troup County Tourism Bureau

07/18/12

Did you know that tourism in Troup County generates an average of $363,123 for our economy every day?

Tourism is more than hotel rooms and meals. In fact, in Troup County, only 14 cents of a tourist’s dollar is spent on lodging. Transportation (gas, car maintenance, airport shuttles) accounts for 36 cents. Food and beverage sales total 32 cents, retail earns 10 cents and 8 cents goes for entertainment.

Whether you sell hotel rooms or recreational equipment; refreshments or upscale cuisine, clothing or convenience items, now is the time for your small business to embrace tourism and begin to reap some of the financial benefits generated through this important component of our local economy.

Re-think the average tourist

Tourists come in a variety of styles. Corporate visitors are at work by day but often seek enjoyable dining and entertainment options by night. Youth sports tournaments bring in families who need comfortable lodging, affordable meal options, a variety of shopping options and sometimes even a laundromat to wash uniforms before the next game.

Most every day brings a church van or tour bus filled with visitors who come to enjoy one of the many local attractions. And several times a week, retired couples who are looking to relocate from metropolitan areas come to our local tourism visitors center.

Providing a “wow” experience for each one of the visitors may be all it takes to convince them and their group to return, or perhaps even to relocate, to Troup County.

Look for the locals

While many travelers still prefer national chains because of convenience or consistency, the old adage “the best food is where the locals eat” still rings true with tourists.

Visitors to Troup County are looking for great food infused with the flavors and quality found only in local restaurants. What makes your restaurant unique? Maybe you serve farm-to-table dishes, or offer the finest hand-crafted cocktails. Perhaps you’ve won awards for your barbecue or you’ll deliver to area hotels.

Whatever it is that helps your eatery stand out, let your local lodging partners and tourism bureau know so we can steer visitors your way.

Serve heaps of hospitality

Curb appeal and customer service are important factors in the success of any business.  Create clear and well-placed signage to direct customers to your business. Maintain a clean and inviting landscape to produce an inviting “sense of arrival.”

There is no greater ambassador for tourism than your front-line employee. As the face of our community, your staff has the opportunity to provide visitors with an enjoyable experience and create a favorable impression of this place we call home.

Your local tourism bureau is here to help you include sightseeing as part of your new hire orientation. Helpful, polite employees with knowledge of what our area has to offer make it easy for visitors to decide they want to return to Troup County. Not only does this help your business, but the entire community will enjoy the benefits.

Think globally

Georgia’s Visitor Information Centers (VICs) are important partners in the business of tourism around the state. Usually when we hear, “I am from the government and I’m here to help,” our first reaction is to cringe at the thought. This time, however, it is true.

Located primarily on main highways along state borders, with a center also located in Plains, the 11 VICs are more than restroom facilities and a grassy spot to stroll the dog. They served 11 million travelers and booked more than 30,000 room nights in Georgia last year.

Identify the VICs that are on the highways leading to your business and establish a working relationship with the VIC manager. Working together, you can take advantage of the countless resources and clever ideas provided by the state to help promote your business.

Be sure to also take advantage of the free listing for your hotel, fishing guide service, marina, or tourism attraction, in the state’s official travel guide. Over 750,000 copies are distributed and mailed all over the U.S. and world.

Listing your business on ExploreGeorgia.org, the state’s tourism website, is another free and easy way to draw potential visitors to your business. To measure the effectiveness and entice more visitors, you may consider including some incentive, such as a discounted meal or attraction ticket, within your listing on the website.

Get Involved

Contact your tourism bureau and become a partner in drawing more tourists, and their dollars, to this community.  The more involved you become, the more your business will benefit. 

About the Author:

Laura Jennings

Laura Jennings is the tourism director for the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce's Tourism Bureau and vice-president of the Presidential Pathways Travel Association.  In addition to her 27 years of experience as a carpool Mom, she has three decades of successful endeavors in marketing, public relations, fundraising and customer service.

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