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Tourism on rise in Bulloch
Economic impact: $111 million and creation of 1,000 jobs
Die-hard Georgia Southern football fans Mike and Crystal Neely, bottom, celebrate with the rest of Paulson Stadium during the 2012 home opener last September. More than 100,000 fans attend GSU football games every season. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/Herald File

      The economic impact of tourism in Bulloch County continues to rise as evidenced in the most recent statistics released by the Georgia Department of Economic Development - Tourism Division (GDED).
      The department estimated that in 2011, those visiting Bulloch County spent $111 million through lodging, transportation, food and beverages, retail and entertainment costs. Tourism also generated more than 1,000 jobs, translating into $20 million in local payroll annually.
      "Many people don't realize the impact that tourism has on the local economy," said Andy Bhula, a local hotel owner/operator and president-elect of the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). "Not only does it help in creating jobs and bringing money into the community, but also in helping reduce the taxes of the local property owners."
      The Georgia Department of Economic Development estimated that in 2011, Tourism generated $4.13 million in State taxes, and $3.21 million in local taxes that directly support a wide variety of local projects - not just those directly related to tourism. Each Bulloch county household pays $295.65 less in state and local taxes as a result of the taxes generated by tourism according to the organization.
      The primary proponent of tourism in the county is the Statesboro CVB. Headed by executive director Heidi Jeffers, the organization is funded through a portion of Statesboro and Bulloch County's hotel/motel tax which is a five percent sales tax assessed on each hotel/motel stay.
      "The SCVB promotes the city of Statesboro to attract visitors, creating jobs and enhancing the economic vitality of Statesboro and Bulloch County," Jeffers said.
      "We market to individuals, conferences, meetings, families, tournaments, groups, business travel, tour operators, and more, to experience all that Bulloch County has to offer."
      According to the GDED, in terms of direct tourism spending, Bulloch County ranks 28 out of 159 counties in the state. If metro Atlanta counties are removed from that list, Bulloch County would rank 17th.
      "Although hotels are the most obvious benefactors of out of town visitors, restaurants, convenience stores, retail shops, and really any sort of business you can imagine may have visitors spend money with them," said Barry Turner, Statesboro CVB board president, and vice president for Community and College Relations at Ogeechee Technical College.
Tourists come to Bulloch County for many reasons, including attending Georgia Southern football games, going to Splash in the Boro or enjoying a cultural event.
      In terms of growth, from 2010 to 2011, tourism spending increased 9.89 percent in Bulloch County-ranking Bulloch county 29th for highest increase year over year. Since 2005, direct tourism spending in Bulloch County has increased 49 percent from $74.88 million to $111.66 million.
      Jeffers said a lot of the good things have happened regarding tourism in Bulloch County because of the positive working relationship that her organization has with the GDED.
      "During 2012, we had two great firsts for the Statesboro," Jeffers said. "Kevin Langston, Deputy Commissioner of Tourism visited the Statesboro CVB Annual Meeting to help launch Georgia's National Tourism Campaign, The South with a Twist. Also, Statesboro was selected along with Vidalia to host Travel Media Marketplace with the Georgia Tourism Division. The three-day event allowed host communities to showcase Georgia's tourism assets first hand to national and international travel writers."
      Turner pointed out the importance of strong support for the tourism industry in Bulloch County.
      "If we were to have a factory in town that employed 1,000 people, we would be doing all we could to make sure it stays fiscally healthy and viable," he said. "Tourism is that type of industry here, and we should work hard to make sure it stays healthy and viable."

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