The Morgan County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau joined with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s (GDEcD) Tourism Product Development Resource Team to discuss practical ideas to optimize tourism in Madison. The resource team thoroughly analyzed Madison’s current tourist attractions to create a report on how to polish and improve the city’s vacation industry. Last Thursday the team presented this report to the public at the Madison City Meeting Hall.
“It’s a really great thing to have a plan, strategy to follow for tourism,” explained Cindy Eidson, director of Tourism Product Development. “We came up with things that could really make a difference and bring tourism to Georgia.”
The presentation was oriented around five central points of recommendations: African American heritage and cultural market, film and music tourism, outdoor recreations and sports, food/drink and Agritourism, enhancing iconic locations in Madison.
Tracey Sanchez, manager of the resource team, covered the outdoor recreations and sports portion of the presentation. Based on the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 report that outdoor recreation in Georgia brought in $27.3 billion in consumer spending, Sanchez strongly recommended the implementation of the “Madison Greenway.” This greenway refers to biking and hiking trails as well as paddling and other water trails. Trails would not only satisfy the need of the public, but also provide visitors with connections to special locations or sites along the trail.
Being that Madison is chock full of history and culture, Cheryl Hargrove, a specialist in Heritage Tourism, recommended that that culture and heritage be shared through place-based experiences. Hargrove centers on making tours in Madison more accessible to tourist without causing disruption in daily traffic, but more importantly bringing those tours to life. Enlivening these tours would cause for out of the box innovation that Hargrove is more than confident Madison can conjure up. Touch and feel exhibits, candlelight ghost tours, architect tours, chef tours, and history happy hours are just a few of her ideas. Hargrove also recommended the community to embrace that African American culture is a pillar to the city of Madison by increasing historic African American sites and telling the stories in more locations throughout the town. Hargrove suggested packaged tours for the Morgan County African American Museum with all the museums in order to lead tourists to the site.
Grants Program Director for the Georgia Council for the Arts Tina Lilly, highlighted the technique of promoting city attractions with art and encouraged the selling and production of local brands in Morgan County, claiming that the brands will attract incomers. Lilly mentioned the introduction of large-scale farm art sculptures, art trails, product tastings and more art workshops.
“We were very pleased with what the team came up with! The expertise of the team was so diverse and that was reflective in their many ideas,” Director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau Ellen Sims commented. “Some of the items they suggested are already in the works, and others will just require partnerships and more funding to accomplish. The ability to be able to now apply for tourism product development grants with the state will be very helpful, not just for us, but for any tourism partner needing funding assistance with a project”
The study and report given by the GDEcD is valued at $25,000 but was provided at no cost aside from their brief visit in June.