Best year in a decade, tourism director says

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

The Madison-Morgan Convention and Visitors Bureau  (CVB) reported its best year in a decade, according to Ellen Sims, director of the CVB. Sims presented her annual report to both the Madison Mayor and City Council and Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) this month, explaining that the CVB is an organization tasked with marketing the local community “as a premier travel and tourism destination in order to increase visitation and create jobs.” And the efforts to do so are working, according to Sims.

“Last year, in Morgan County alone, tourism supported 420 jobs, created $2 million in state tax revenues, and produced $1.5 million in local tax revenues. And to top it off, each Morgan County household received $435.91 in tax relief as a result of the taxes generated by tourism economic activity,” It goes without saying, tourism encompasses a huge ‘slice’ of the ‘economic pie’ in Morgan County.”

Sims presented data on the CVB’s overall impact throughout the course of the last several years. “In the last six years, the tourism economic impact in Morgan County increased 37 percent from $35.8 million to $49.25 million.”

The CVB is primarily funded from the Hotel/Motel tax, which is paid for by out-of-town visitors who stay in Morgan County lodging facilities. The CVB receives 45 percent of the Hotel/Motel Tax collected in the City of Madison and 40 percent from Morgan County. The City of Madison also provides an extra $30,000 to the CVB to fund advertising. The remaining revenue from the Hotel/Motel Tax goes into the city’s and county’s general funds, which according to Sims, offsets the taxes paid by the citizens.

“So, tourism benefits the entire community,” said Sims.

Sims has allocated funding to several initiatives to promote Madison and Morgan County across the state of Georgia, across the country, and even across the globe. The CVB has created two free Apps for smartphones and tablets to assist tourists who come to visit. The CVB offers a Visitor’s Guide App and an Audio Walking Tour of the Historic District and has boosted the organizations presence on social media with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. “The way people, especially millennials, want to get their information is changing,” said Sims about becoming more technology-friendly for tourists.

The CVB has also created a brand new website listing local events, lodging facilities, local attractions, places to eat, and wedding venues and offers a new 16-page printed Visitor Guide, which has been distributed across the state.

“Since June, we have distributed a total of 15,000: 10,000 by mail to the 70 Welcome Centers around the state to distribute (including the 11 State Welcome Centers); 2,200 to individual visitors that have requested to receive the brochure by mail; and the remaining 2,800 have been passed out to visitors by our Information Specialist in the Welcome Center. There is also a digital ‘flip book’ version available on our website. This leaves us 15,000 left to distribute until our next reprint in the Spring of 2017,” explained Sims.

One of the CVB’s biggest payoffs has been hosting travel writers who come and stay in Madison and Morgan County to feature the community. Just this past year, the CVB hosted 42 travel writers, and has found at least 132 articles about the local community in widely read publications.

“To name a few, these articles were in such magazines/newspapers as: Southern Living, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, USA Today, Atlanta Magazine, Victoria Magazine, South Magazine, and Budget Travel Magazine,” reported Sims.  These articles have amounted to tens of thousands of dollars of free advertising promoting Madison and Morgan County. “It’s just so important for our community to understand how important tourism is and how it affects our community in the long-run,” said Sims.

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