Explore Georgia, the tourism division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, is proud to support Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) on March 30 and this year’s “Meetings Matter” theme by showcasing the economic and societal importance of professional in-person meetings across the state. Led by the Meetings Mean Business coalition and the U.S. Travel Association, GMID is an international day of advocacy that recognizes the undeniable value that business meetings, trade shows, conferences and conventions bring to people, businesses and communities.
Meetings are a key driver of Georgia’s economy and workforce, playing a vital role in fueling other industries such as food and beverage, lodging, retail, transportation and more. The most recent data shows that professional meetings attracted 5.5 million overnight domestic travelers to Georgia and drove $2.6 billion in business travel spending statewide in 2021. That spending directly supports thousands of jobs and helps power small and local businesses throughout Georgia.
“Business travel is essential to our state’s tourism economy,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Chief Marketing Officer Mark Jaronski. “Our office is grateful to Governor Brian Kemp, our General Assembly, and our statewide tourism industry for making Georgia the best state in the nation to meet and do business in person. The economic impact of professional meetings and events is evidence that this segment provides significant value and benefits that filter through communities across all regions of our state.”
When people attend meetings or conferences at The Classic Center in Athens, they are just steps away from downtown restaurants, shops and hotels. The Classic Center hosts more than 700 events annually, adding 80,000 room nights to local hotels and an estimated $46 million of economic impact to Athens-Clarke County. During summer in this college town, the community depends on meetings like the Georgia Association for Career & Technical Education’s Summer Leadership Conference, which brings in 2,100 attendees and an estimated $1.3 million in economic impact. Building on the successful history of hosting a wide variety of events and meetings in Athens, The Classic Center has broken ground on The Classic Center Arena, which is scheduled to open in early 2024. The arena will have the ability to transform for any occasion and is expected to generate an estimated $30 million in annual economic impact.
In Augusta, the meetings and groups segment of travel accounts for nearly 30 percent of overnight stays. And recently, the economic impact of business travel spending in Augusta increased nearly 70 percent from $30.9 million in 2021 to $52.4 million in 2022. Meetings like TechNet Augusta are essential in stimulating the local economy and bringing in new visitors who stay in the city’s hotels, eat in local restaurants and shop in local stores. This week-long conference draws 5,000 attendees and is estimated to generate $4.2 million in economic impact this year through lodging, restaurants and shopping. To accommodate more visitors downtown near the Augusta Convention Center, an Embassy Suites is slated for groundbreaking this year with completion expected in 2025. The $40 million hotel is expected to add nearly 200 rooms in the city’s Broad Street Corridor.
This spring, Dunwoody, located just a few miles north of Atlanta, hosted the American Daffodil Society National Convention, which was held in conjunction with the society’s annual daffodil show. This three-day event attracted more than 1,000 attendees and more than $214,000 in visitor spending to the city. This boost in visitation and spending for Dunwoody creates jobs, supports local businesses and enhances the local business environment by attracting new businesses and investments to the area, further stimulating economic growth. The event planners developed connections with attendees by posting street pole banners throughout the city to promote the event, providing staff to judge the show’s flower competition, and having the mayor greet attendees and present awards. Showing attendees how much they are appreciated can translate into extended stays with additional spending on lodging, dining, transportation and attractions, as well as repeat visitation for business and leisure.
On Jekyll Island, the convention center welcomed nearly 50,000 attendees in 2022, generating approximately $9 million in hotel revenue through room nights on the island. Meetings and conventions help drive tourism into the Jekyll Island community and contribute to the island’s year-round economic success. The Georgia Association of Education Leaders’ Summer Conference, for example, has been held on Jekyll Island for more than 40 years, drawing 1,500 attendees and generating more than $310,000 in hotel revenue in 2022. Conference participants tend to turn their trip into a summer family event, enjoying the island’s restaurants and wide range of amenities, including 10 miles of beaches, four golf courses, tennis, 22 miles of bike paths, unique shopping opportunities, touring the National Historic Landmark District, Georgia Sea Turtle Center and more. With the Jekyll Island Convention Center and hotels with meeting space, the island has experienced a robust return to meetings in the last two years and continues to be a destination of choice for meeting planners across a variety of industries.
For more information about meetings and conventions in Georgia, visit www.exploregeorgia.org/meetings.