Taking in a tour of the Booth Western Art Museum, seeing the sights at Etowah Indian Mounds and paddling down the Etowah River, participants saw firsthand some of the local attractions garnering international attention.
With that attention comes revenue and economic impact to the surrounding area. Organizers of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Bartow program looked Wednesday to increase awareness of tourism and its impact on the economy.
“Our goal was to show that tourism is an industry. It has a lot more of an impact on Bartow County than people realize. It’s an economic driver and we hoped people would learn more about that, including the tax benefits and savings from tourism dollars in Bartow County,” said Brad Cowart, event organizer and Fleetwood Security sales representative.
One of the impacts emphasized by a panel of area experts presenting Wednesday was the tax relief for Bartow County residents provided by the tourism and hospitality industry. According to data from the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau, state and local taxes generated by tourism in Bartow County totaled $8.63 million in 2011, reducing state and local taxes for each Bartow County household by $251.
Executive Director of the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority Tara Currier joined Ellen Archer and Regina Wheeler from the CVB, Seth Hopkins of the Booth Western Art Museum and Georgia Museums, Michelle Sims of Hilton Garden Inn, economic development specialist Tyler Edwards and Janet Cochran of Georgia Tourism for a question-and-answer panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges facing tourism in Bartow.
“Tourism is the second-largest industry in the state of Georgia. It is the fifth-largest employer in the state of Georgia. In Cartersville and Bartow County, close to 1,400 people are employed by the tourism and hospitality industry,” Currier said. “We’re truly blessed that everyone in the hospitality/tourism industry in Bartow County is on the same page.
“All of those people sitting on the stage together, we’re all working together. We all need to refer one another to each other. What helps Hilton, helps downtown and helps visitation across the county.”
Outside the business of economic impact, Leadership Bartow participants experienced some of the county’s hidden attractions. With a fleet of kayaks and canoes donated by Euharlee Creek Outfitters for the afternoon, more than 20 class members embarked in a paddle trip to showcase an underutilized tourism destination.
“Bartow is very fortunate. We have a lot to offer, but everyone’s just not aware of what’s available in the area,” Cowart said. “We wanted to highlight things that people may not be aware of, like Ron [Thomas] at Euharlee Creek Outfitters. There’s a lot of people that don’t realize what we have in our town and they’re going to drive an hour to do that in another river.”
Event organizer and Century Bank Business Development Manager Jennifer Wiggins-Matthews urges all residents to actively spread the word about their hometown.
“For all residents, including myself, we should take the responsibility to promote our own town. Just like any business, the best advertisement is word-of-mouth referrals and who better to give that referal than someone who lives here,” Matthews said. “That’s far more believeable than anything someone can read in a brochure or on a website. And on the flip side, if we don’t tell people, we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot.”