By Joel Hall
The Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CCCVB), the Morrow Business and Tourism Association (MBTA), and other tourism associations around the country are celebrating National Tourism Week, May 10-18.
In order to promote tourism, local agencies will be offering several special programs and discounts this month. All this week, the Road to Tara Museum will offer a buy-one, get-one free program, in which patrons taking the Rhett & Scarlett Tour will receive one free ticket. The tour includes the Road to Tara Museum and the mini-bus tour of historic Jonesboro.
Megan Spears, CCCVB marketing communications manager, said the week is a chance to celebrate and thank travelers, hotel operators, gas stations, and all of the people who make tourism in the area possible.
"For every tourist that comes into our community, it offsets what a resident has to pay," said Spears. "They run our industry ... it's the reason why we have jobs, so it's very important for us to celebrate."
Spears said the CCCVB has contacted local restaurants and hotels, encouraging them to wear the color red on Friday in support of National Tourism Week.
This week is "the week where tourism is spotlighted in the community," said Mike Twomey, president and director of the MBTA. "Tourism is probably the biggest money maker or source of revenue in a community that you can have."
On Sunday and Monday, the MBTA welcomed travel writer Dave Hunter, author of "Along Interstate 75," a constantly updated, painstakingly detailed guide to the north-south road which travels all the way from Ontario, Canada to the tip of Florida.
"It's geared towards Canadians who go down south and it is probably the most complete map of [Interstate] 75 available," said Twomey. He said Hunter highlighted the fact that Morrow is a "viable area to stop" with "nice hotels and shopping."
At the end of the month, on March 31, the MBTA will welcome Ann T. Cook, better known as the original "Gerber baby" seen in Gerber advertisements since the early 1930s. From 11 a.m., to 3 p.m., Cook, a former English teacher and mystery novel writer, will sign her books and Gerber memorabilia.
Pat Duncan, CCCVB president and CEO, said visitors to Clayton County spend on average "$97 a day on retail shopping, $81.50 on lodging, and $55.60 on food." He said National Tourism Week is a way to "thank our visitors" and "expand our tourism product."
"With today's gas prices, a lot of people are going to be vacationing closer to home," said Duncan. "We have 11 million people within a two-hour drive of metro Atlanta. We need to get them here."