The annual program, designed to bring diplomats and business officials into local communities, last came through northwest Georgia in 2006. Highlighting regional tourism destinations, cultural sites and industries, the International VIP Tour will travel through Bartow, Catoosa, Floyd, Gordon, Walker and Whitfield counties Wednesday through Friday.
"Bartow County is actually well represented in the itinerary all three days," said Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development Melinda Lemmon. "The international VIPs are very important to the state of Georgia, they're the target audience of the Georgia Department of Economic Development when it comes to taking care of certain existing industries as well as new industry recruitment."
The tour will begin with an industry visit on Wednesday with a Rome-area manufacturer before coming to Cartersville to tour the Booth Western Art Museum. After touring sites in Dalton and Ringgold, the tour will return to Bartow for an overnight stay at Adairsville's Barnsley Gardens Resort. Additional stops will be made Friday across northwest Georgia before making the final stop at Anheuser-Busch's Cartersville brewery.
"Each year, we look forward to this tour and the opportunity it gives us to introduce Georgia's consular corps to a part of Georgia they may not be acquainted with," stated GDEcD Commissioner Chris Cummiskey in a press release. "The members of this group are influential voices for our state in their respective countries, and seeing the diversity of our business and cultural environment first-hand helps them stay up-to-date on the opportunities Georgia holds for international visitors and global companies."
Lemmon noted that tour stops at the Booth and Barnsley will expose the international VIPs, and the state officials accompanying them, to a piece of Bartow County's tourism industry. Their stay at Barnsley also will allow for exposure to local officials through the hosting of a meal Thursday evening.
"As they become more familiar with northwest Georgia and Bartow County, they can become resources," Lemmon said. "Plus, we're assisting our state partners in exposing these VIPs to an area outside of metro Atlanta that is really important to the state."
This year's VIP Tour will include representatives of Albania, the Bahamas, Belgium, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Hungary, India, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Nigeria, the Philippines, Quebec, Sweden and Switzerland. According to the GDEcD, more than 50 countries operate nearly 3,000 internationally-owned facilities in Georgia, employing more than 170,000 Georgians. With a record $34.7 billion in exports in 2011, Georgia is now the 12th largest exporting state in the nation.