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Visitors Bureau shares county's tourism impact

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

msubiria@news-daily.com

Clayton County is among the top five counties within the state of Georgia, in terms of total economic impact in direct spending, according to the president and CEO of the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Direct spending is money that is directly spent from a tourist's wallet into the local economy, according to officials.

Patrick Duncan said both Interstate 75 and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport help attract tourism to the county.

"Last year we had visitors from 42 countries and every state in the U.S.," he said.

Duncan shared this information to business professionals on Thursday, during the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce's "SunTrust Early Bird Breakfast," at the Riverdale Centre for the Arts, Business and Leisure Services, in Riverdale.

He said that in 2009, Clayton County tourism generated 29,799 jobs, had $956.61 million in direct tourism spending, created $115.46 million in state tax revenues and generated $29.77 million in local tax revenues.

In addition, tourists spent $2.6 million daily, on an average day, in the county in tourism expenses, including 36.6 percent on transportation, 31.8 percent on food and beverage, 14.2 percent on lodging, 10 percent on retail trade and 7.4 percent on entertainment, said Duncan.

The numbers derive from the 2009 U.S. Travel Association Economic Impact Report, which was released in December 2010, according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau head.

Megan Drew, director of marketing and communications for the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Clayton County and its cities benefit from the 8 percent hotel/motel tax.

Drew explained that if a hotel room costs $100 for a night, the tourist would pay the cost of the room, plus the additional hotel/motel tax. Some hotels are within city limits, others are within county limits. This tax revenue is split in half, and goes to the Convention and Visitors Bureau and a county, or city government, depending on the hotel's location, she said.

Therefore, said Drew, the Convention and Visitors Bureau has launched a new program related to geocaching, a high-tech treasure hunting game usually played by tourists equipped with global positioning system (GPS) devices. The idea of the game, which is played outdoors, is to locate geocaches, which are hidden containers, and share the experience online.

"It's a huge market that's exploding...the reason behind doing the program is to try and keep people here [Clayton County] longer," she said.

Drew said geocaching is a game growing in popularity, and Clayton County already has various sites in cities, including College Park, Forest Park, Riverdale, Lake City, Morrow, Lovejoy and Jonesboro.

Drew said tourists will learn about the county's history and attractions through the treasure hunting game.

She said participants will find items, including a trading card with a picture and information about the site, and prizes such as coupons to local attractions and restaurants.

She said the annual "Taste of Clayton," event would be another tourism attraction.

"CVB [Convention and Visitors Bureau] has never been involved in the 'Taste of Clayton' before...CVB wanted to get involved in making it a signature event in Clayton County," said Drew.

She said the event has usually been held on Fridays at the Stately Oaks Plantation, in Jonesboro.

This year it is scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 9, from 11 a.m., to 3 p.m., on Main Street in Downtown Jonesboro.

Drew said she is hopeful it will attract more visitors.

In years past, the event has had about 25 restaurants involved and about 500 visitors, she said.

"We're hoping we can double that attendance," she added.

Drew said the event will include a "Sweet Tea Challenge" competition, a sweet-tea-drinking contest, sponsored by Chick-fil-A, and a kids zone. The kids' zone will include face painting, clowns and inflatables, she explained.

The proceeds of the event will benefit historical preservation in Clayton County.

"When you become a destination, people do more than one thing...they are likely to spend the night," added Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO, Duncan.