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The Georgia Department of Economic Development has released the 2015 study of Travel Economic Impact on the state of Georgia, counties and regions and according to Tourism Director Bonnie Hayes, the numbers show that tourism means big business for Thomasville.

“I think many people are surprised to hear about the economic impact tourism has locally,” said Hayes. “In 2015, the tourism industry supported more than 600 local jobs and generated $67.6 million in direct tourist spending.”

The 2015 numbers show an increase for Thomas County over previous years. Job growth is up by more than 5%, in part due to new restaurants and businesses opening in the community to support the growth in the area. Visitor expenditures have also steadily grown over the last six years, with a near 30% growth from 2009 to 2015.

Hayes said that the impact of tourism in Thomas County also means that tax dollars are generated, which translates into community improvements locally.

“Sales tax dollars that are generated by visitor spending means that each household pays less in taxes,” said Hayes. “In Thomas County, each household would need to be taxed an additional $264 per year to replace taxes generated by tourism economic activity.”

State-wide, tourism dollars are vital to Georgia’s economy. The tourism industry’s impact on Georgia’s economy was $59 billion in 2015, an increase of 3.2%.

“Tourism generated $3 billion in state and local taxes during 2015, which makes a huge impact on our economy,” said Hayes. “The impact of tourism in Georgia is significant, with more than 439,000 jobs statewide being supported by tourism across multiple industry sectors. In fact, 10.3% of all payroll from employment in Georgia is directly related to the tourism industry.”

Over 5,000 visitors walked through the doors of the Visitors Center this past year. In 2016 the Visitors Center assisted over 9200 people in town for weddings, reunions, sporting events and the like bringing an estimated $17 million in direct spending to the area.

“Most of our visitor’s come to us from the southeast region, within a 3-5 hour drive from Thomasville, but we do see some from California and New England who have heard about Thomasville and made it their main destination,” said Hayes. “It’s always surprising to meet someone from as far away as Germany or Switzerland and even Australia that are here visiting.”

Hayes said that most visitor’s to Thomasville come to experience the shopping and dining that is available in downtown Thomasville. Other attractions such as Pebble Hill Plantation, the Lapham Patterson House, and the Rose Garden are a draw as well as the abundant quail hunting that can be found in the area.

Hayes said, “We are fortunate to have a city that can host some of the best cultural events to be found in the Southeast. In addition to coming to see local attractions, thousands come to Thomasville to take part in the Rose Show and Festival, Antiques Show, Thomasville Entertainment Foundation concerts, Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival, and Victorian Christmas. Each event reaches a different demographic which allows people from all over to find a reason to come to Thomasville and spend their time and money with us.”