The Georgia Trust

PRESERVATION ISSUES

Heritage Tourism Heats Up in Georgia
Initiative Fans the Flames of History As Tourists Flock to Georgia

Every community in Georgia has a unique tale to tell, and more and more people are visiting Georgia hoping to hear its stories.

Now, with encouragement from The New Georgia Tourism Foundation, increased economic development and preservation of Georgia’s historic landmarks is right around the corner.

Not only will the heightened promotion of Georgia entice more people to visit the state’s historic sites, but it will also mean more business in your town and a better quality of life for you.

Sites such as the Little White House in Warm Springs continue to draw tourists from around the world.
“Tourism is a good industry, because it allows you to create a level of prosperity without having to build factories, so you don’t have to lose the character of a small town for people to come spend money and create jobs,” says Dan Rowe, Deputy Commissioner for Tourism for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

“It’s really quite simple,” said John Nau during his speech to the State Preservation Conference at The Georgia Trust’s Annual Meeting. “Heritage tourism is one of the most rapidly growing segments of the burgeoning tourism industry.”

History Gaining Ground
Nearly one million Americans are expected to travel in the United States this year, with another 49 million international visitors coming to the country.

Of those U.S. adults who traveled in the past year, 81 percent are considered historic or cultural travelers.

“Folks that travel for cultural heritage purposes spend more money, stay longer, are more highly educated and they love to shop,” Rowe says.

In fact, these tourists spend an average of $623 per trip compared with the $457 spent by other travelers, according to the Travel Industry Association of America.

In 2001, 43 percent of adult travelers visited a historic site such as a building, battlefield or historic community, making it the most popular cultural activity.

Why are so many travelers interested in history and preservation, and why now? Is it because of our increasingly hectic lives, or are we tired of suburbia and long for the simpler life that historic downtowns represent? Are the effects of 9/11 still being felt?

10 Benefits of Heritage Tourism

  1. Creates jobs and businesses
  2. Increases tax revenues
  3. Diversifies local economy
  4. Creates opportunities for partnerships
  5. Attracts visitors interested in history and preservation
  6. Increases historic attraction revenues
  7. Preserves local traditions and culture
  8. Generates local investment in historic resources
  9. Builds community pride in heritage
  10. Increases awareness of the site or area’s significance
    Source: The National Trust for Historic Preservation

Actually all of the above. After 9/11, the cultural attitude started to shift. People wanted to stay home, or if they did travel, they stayed close or visited relatives.

At the same time, our increased dependence on technology in our daily lives has led to a very frazzled, overworked nation that desperately wants to slow down the pace.

“As more of our lives become high tech, the more people demand for high touch,” Rowe says. “The more that Blackberrys and cell phones start to rule our lives, we also need to prevent ourselves from becoming the Jetsons.”

Judy Randall, president and CEO of Randall Travel Marketing, thinks people are gravitating toward historic sites because, in the wake of 9/11, we want to feel connected to our past. “People want to stand where history happened.”

“We need to go back to our roots and understand what makes us unique and what makes up our heritage,” Rowe adds. “We all like to know from where we come, as well as see beautiful places and really do authentic things.”

Georgia Primed for Increase in Cultural Travelers
Cities across Georgia are banking on that statement and are ready to show visitors why their cities are unique.

Many of Georgia’s towns were bypassed by the interstates that cut through the state in the 1950s. Soon after, many saw their business go elsewhere and the economy dry up.

Today, however, the freeways that once left Georgia’s towns in the dust have actually helped save many of Georgia’s historic buildings. Because the interstates didn’t cut through towns, the historic product still exists and the city still retains its character—character lost through concrete in many other towns.

“Tourism does not go to a city that has lost its soul,” says Becky Bassett, director of the regional tourism program for the Department of Economic Development. “We need to celebrate our differences. We need to tell our stories, whether they’re good, bad or ugly, because they set us apart.”

5 Ways to Draw Travelers
To Your Town

  1. Focus on authenticity and quality. Tell the true story of your town.
  2. Preserve and protect resources. Protect historic structures from both demolition and visitors so they do not damage them. People will travel to see a city’s landmark, but you’ll lose tourism potential if all you have is a plaque telling people of what used to be there.
  3. Make sites come alive. Carefully prepare an interpretation of your sites so the visitor discovers the human drama of history, not just dates and names.
  4. Find the fit between your community and tourism. A united community that welcomes visitors, is ready for the traffic that comes with them, and supports the heritage tourism effort will help attract tourists.
  5. Collaborate. Find partnerships between local citizens, government agencies, private organizations, even other local communities to help tell your region’s story and draw more tourists to the area.
    Source: The National Trust for Historic Preservation

Bassett was just one of many who spoke at the recent Heritage Tourism workshop in Thomson, Ga., part of a series held around the state to show how promoting a sense of place can encourage increased heritage tourism in Georgia cities.

The workshop series is produced by The Georgia Trust in partnership with the Tourism Division of The Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Historic Preservation Division of The Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Visit www.georgiatrust.org for details and to register for an upcoming workshop.

Economic Development Through Tourism
When it comes to economic impact of tourism, Georgia’s second largest industry behind agriculture, the numbers are staggering.

According to a 2003 preliminary study by the Governor’s Commission on Georgia History and Historical Tourism, visitor spending totaled $23.9 billion in 2002, generating $682.9 million in state tax revenues.

The tourism industry is potentially one of Georgia’s highest growth opportunities. Research shows that every $1 invested in marketing Georgia generates $48 in new tourism dollars.

Places that attract tourists generally are inviting to local residents as well.

“There’s a quality of life there that you don’t see where there aren’t tourism products,” Rowe says. “Typically, there are more restaurants and better streetscapes, and there’s history and a sense of place.”

Ultimately, the new heritage tourism push will affect Georgia in ways we cannot yet anticipate.

“Heritage Tourism, in my opinion, is a win-win situation,” says Angela Millett of the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It can save the soul of a community by separating it from others. It improves quality of life. It shows a community feels good about itself. Most importantly, it’s the best opportunity for economic growth in rural Georgia.”

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