Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp today recognized the performance and impact of the state’s tourism industry while attending the 2019 Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference in LaGrange. Hosted by the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) and the Georgia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus, this annual educational and professional development event brought together more than 400 tourism industry professionals from across the state. Visitors in Georgia spent an estimated $31 billion in 2018 – a 4.8% increase over 2017 numbers.

“Tourism is a key piece of Georgia’s success story,” said Governor Brian P. Kemp. “As the top state for business for the sixth year in a row, visitors to Georgia are a crucial sector of the state’s economy. Travelers explore our outdoor activities, food, music, arts, culture, and historical venues while supporting small businesses and local communities. I look forward to the Peach State building on 2018’s record year and continuing to be a worldwide destination for those looking for Southern hospitality.”

As visitor spending climbed, so did the overall number of visitors. In 2018, Georgia welcomed a record 111.67 million visitors which supported 475,000 jobs and generated $66.2 billion in economic impact, up 4.7 percent over 2017.

“The record-breaking impact and visitation we have seen are a testament to Georgia’s appeal as a visitor destination. Travelers from all over the world come to experience Georgia’s vast range of natural landscapes, iconic places, and way of life,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “I applaud all of our tourism industry professionals for delivering world-class offerings and inspiring travel to our state. Their efforts play a valuable role in making strides toward Georgia becoming the No. 1 travel destination in the American South.”

During the conference, Governor Kemp recognized the contributions of select organizations and individuals in Georgia’s tourism industry by presenting nine Georgia Tourism Awards. The peer-selected awards acknowledge individuals and businesses in Georgia who have demonstrated dedication, creativity, and excellence.

The 2019 award recipients include:

• The Paul Broun Award for Marketing Initiatives was awarded to Explore Gwinnett’s March Meatness (over $1 million) and the Thomasville Visitors Center’s Fall in Love with Tville (under $1 million).

• The Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award was presented to Stacey Dickson, President of the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau.

• The Al Burruss Award for Creative Expression was awarded to the Golden Isles’ Hospitality Celebration (over $1 million) and the Gainesville Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Free-Range GVL (under $1 million).

• The Paul Nelson Award for Outdoor Recreation and Preservation was awarded to Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area Alliance.

• The Bill Hardman Sr. Tourism Champion Product Development Award was presented to the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau for Augusta & Co.

• The Bill Hardman Sr. Tourism Champion Private Sector Award was presented to Jason Reott with Georgia Peach World.

• The Bill Hardman Sr. Tourism Champion Partnership Award was presented to Historic Pews & Pulpits Ramble.

• The Bill Hardman Sr. Tourism Champion in Government was presented to Tyler Reinagel with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

• The Tom Kilgore Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Peter Bowden, President and CEO of Visit Columbus.

The Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference provides a platform to educate members of the tourism industry about travel and tourism-related issues on a national and statewide level, focusing on emerging trends as well as ways to reinforce current tourism efforts and future initiatives. The 2020 Georgia Governor's Tourism Conference will be held August 30 to September 2, 2020 at Lanier Islands Legacy Lodge.

Contact Director of Communications & Deputy Executive Counsel

Candice Broce

Contact Press Secretary

Cody Hall