From Merriam-Webster's online dictionary: Tourism is defined as the promotion or encouragement of touring.
Tourism in Albany may seem extinct to locals, but it's thriving within the hospitality industry. Albany is seen as a jewel, the center of Southwest Georgia to industry leaders and visitors who select Albany as their destination. Viewing Albany with open eyes, they see the beauty, culture and excitement of the Good Life City.
This week is National Travel and Tourism Week, and the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau is celebrating the occasion by showcasing the impact of the U.S. travel industry and its ability to affect our economy.
Travel and tourism is one of America's largest industries, contributing $1.9 trillion to our economy and supporting 14.4 million American jobs. In 2011, it delivered $124 billion in tax revenues. In fact, without travel and tourism's contribution to the tax base, each household would be taxed an additional $1,000 per year.
But that's nationally; the question is what does that mean for Albany? It means a lot. The hospitality industry employees 1,980 people in Albany. That's right behind Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and the Dougherty County School System. That's your hotels, your attractions, your restaurants, your shops.
The latest data from the State of Georgia's Department of Economic Development and Tourism report that Dougherty County generated more than $184 million in expenditures related to domestic travel. The local tax receipts amounted to $5.56 million.
Every day the Albany Welcome Center receives dozens of visitors coming through its doors. Some would think it peaks during the summer, but because of our location and consistent climate, we are the ideal travel destination year-round. In 2011, the Welcome Center recorded 14,000 visitors in our sign-in book. In comparison to the first quarter, 2012 is already higher than last year. Currently, 6,000 visitors have signed in.
Tourists come in many different ways -- motorcoaches, sporting events, conventions and meetings. And the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau is here to welcome, direct and show each visitor the Southern hospitality we are known for.
Motorcoaches are attracted to our Paula Deen, Sherwood Pictures, historic, agritourism and culinary tours. Each tour is specifically designed to meet the needs of the motorcoach operator. The Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau designs itineraries for sporting events, conventions and meetings not only for participants in the tournaments or conferences, but also for their additional guests, highlighting the attributes of our city.
To attract motorcoaches, sporting events, conventions and meetings, your Convention and Visitors Bureau is actively promoting Albany at local, state and national industry conferences. We also partner with local civic clubs, organizations or professional development groups to host regional, state and national conferences in Albany.
Tourism also comes in the form of family reunions. Throughout the year, families return home to reminisce and visit the additions to the city they called home, bringing with them family members who have never visited Albany. The Convention and Visitors Bureau works with our attractions and hoteliers to accommodate each reunion so they can have a tailored, unique experience.
Having a state-of-the-art planetarium, an AZA-accredited zoo, a civil rights institute, a unique fresh-water aquarium, a fast-paced racetrack, one of Georgia's wonders, the finest sub-Saharan African art in the southeast and the only regional information center in the Plantation Trace region ... tourism will always have a positive impact on the community and local economy.
Rashelle Beasley is the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau's manager. She has been with the Convention and Visitors Bureau for three and half years.