Groups tout power of tourism to local economy
While everyone was considering the great new uses for the new convention center at the annual State of Tourism luncheon, the Augusta Sports Council’s Brinsley Thigpen was thinking sports.
“The Augusta Sports Council wants to fill this room with athletes,” she said.
While that might not be the conventional way to think about the new convention space, which enjoyed its ribbon cutting just hours after the luncheon, it’s tough to argue with the numbers. After all, 38,000 square feet of exhibit space is perfect for traveling volleyball tournaments, taekwondo tournaments and cheerleading events — all part of those unheralded sporting events the city has supported even before the opening of the TEE Center.
She nodded at the boxing ring set up as part of the neighboring Business Expo.
“This could be a premier national championship boxing venue,” she said.
Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Barry White was thinking outside the typical convention box as well, talking about community uses like church services, weddings and family reunions.
“The possibilities of this space are really limited only by your imagination,” he said.
As the two primary city offices for tourism, the CVB and the Sports Council teamed up for the tourism luncheon for the first time. Both spoke of the importance of tourism to the city.
“Travel and tourism are powerful economic generators for Augusta, and we’ve made great strides,” White said. “We’ve got great momentum right now.”
His evidence came from yearly data. In 2012, the city enjoyed over 5,000 overnight guests each day, representing an increase of four percent in total hotel revenue for the year. Additionally, the airport had a record breaking 2012.
According to White, these numbers weren’t just one time occurrences.
“In the past six years, revenue from hotels never declined year over year, and in that same period, total hotel revenue increased 36 percent,” he said.
The airport’s increase in passengers over the last six years: 102 percent.
“Even in a good economy, those numbers would be impressive, but to do it during the challenging times of the past six years is really quite incredible,” White said.
White also said that over the next couple of years, the U.S. Travel Association is estimating a steady growth in visitor and travel spending, with leisure traveling actually outpacing business travel.
“I think we’ll see similar trends in Augusta, but I think we may see a more rapid growth,” he said. “With projects like Pant Vogtle, the NSA facility and other industries, business travel in Augusta is sure to increase.”
Augusta Sports Council’s supported events in 2012 resulted in nearly $23 million in direct visitor spending.
The ESi Ironman 70.3, for example, brought in $4.05 million in direct visitor spending
“Augusta hosts the most prestigious golf tournament in the world and it’s our responsibility to show all event owners that the specific sport can have the most prestigious event in the world in our city,” said Thigpen. “We know we have the hotel capacity and we have some wonderful venues and amazing restaurants.”
One of the ways she said helps leverage event owners is the fact that the organization exists and the community supports it.
“We must increase awareness of the Augusta Sports Council’s reputation for excellence throughout the region,” she said. “If event owners know that Augusta has a sports council that can serve as a local organizing committee for the event, they are more apt to come to Augusta.”
She also said the city benefits greatly from the smaller events that don’t always make the headlines.
“There are very few limitations on the number of participants or the types of competitions that Augusta can host,” she said. “Just because an event is smaller does not mean that it is not a high quality. All competitions help promote sports tourism.” You Might Also Like: