Director of the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau speaks during tourism committee meeting

Thursday, Mar. 23, 2023–12:58 p.m.

David Crowder, WRGA News-

Rome and Floyd County have many great assets to attract visitors and tourists, according to Jay Markwalter, executive director of the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau. Markwalter spoke to members of the tourism committee on Wednesday. 

He told the committee that sports is a huge market for visitors, as is business, family reunions, arts, and outdoor activities. Another important market is called VFR, which is an abbreviation for visiting friends and relatives. Markwalter told the committee that they can all assist the local tourism team in bringing business travel or group travel to the community.

“All of you have some connection to some connection to bring in even a small corporate retreat, a larger group, or a sporting event,” he said.  

Tourism is also becoming more and more an important factor in the recruiting of industry.

“These days it is completely about the quality of the place,” he said. “Economic development used to be more about buildings, land, and incentives. All of that is important, but once they know about all that, they want to know about the arts and culture, what their families can do, and if it’s a great place to be.”

He also told the committee that he was impressed with Broad Street in downtown Rome.

“Everything is clean, everything is attractive,” he said. “The flowers, the trashcans, the signage, the raised crosswalks with cars stopping for us, and the lights in the trees are all a wow factor. Everything is big, wide and green. Be thankful for that but continue working together to keep it that way.”

Markwalter also praised Cave Spring.

“What a great destination,” he said.

Another benefit of tourism is the economic impact.

“Due to local taxes being impacted by direct and indirect spending, $297 is the savings for each household in Floyd County, offset by visitor spending in the community,” Markwalter said.

The Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus serves as the trade organization for tourism offices across the state. Their number one legislative priority for 2023 is protecting the lodging tax. They’re also working to prioritize and increase investment in Georgia’s tourism marketing, as well as opposing discriminatory legislation and supporting workforce development initiatives.

Markwalter announced Wednesday, that the association will be teaming up with the Carl Vincent Institute of Government at the University of Georgia to offer dedicated tourism training for local government officials.

“According to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, $300 million a year is floating around in city halls in Georgia,” he said. “We have to make sure our elected officials understand the nuts and bolts of that money. They agreed to launch a program for us and house it under their economic development training courses. This is a big deal for us and the industry.”

The first session will be on May 9 in Madison.

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