WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Georgia is now ranked 5th in the nation for tourism, and people are choosing Houston County to visit. That's according to a statewide travel group.
Tourism is the second largest industry for Georgia, with agriculture being first, and places like Rigby's Entertainment Complex are why people choose to visit.
People fill the lobby of Rigby's Entertainment Complex almost every day, some are locals and some visitors.
"We know our reach is large just based on visitation that comes through the door," Manager Gracie Rigby said.
Rigby says she's met families visiting from as far as Alaska and Germany.
"It's a great place to come for all ages," Rigby said.
Warner Robins' Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director, Marsha Buzzell, says it's common for families to stay overnight on their way to Orlando; and spend money at restaurants, gas stations, car rental services, and more.
"We just have so much going on in Houston County. We have great attractions. We are right in the middle of the state. We have great attractions and we have great hotels. There is just no doubt about it; and we have great hospitality," Buzzell said.
Buzzell also says, in Houston County, tourists spend more than $600,000 daily. That's about $222.6 million spent annually!
"We have little theatre. We have great culinary atmosphere. We have parks, walking trails. We want people to be a tourist in their own hometown," Buzzell said.
According to Georgia's Department of Transportation, more than 64,000 cars exit I-75 into Houston County, on a daily basis. Nearly 20,000 cars exit Watson Boulevard, about 15,000 get off the Russell Boulevard Exit, nearly 19,000 off the Byron Exit, and about 10,000 off the Highway 96 exit.
"Part of it is because we are on Georgia's World War II Heritage Trail, so their coming here to visit the Hall of Fame, The Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, The Museum of Aviation, Rigby's Water Park, golf, we have a lot of golfers who come here who fly in from Atlanta, and believe it or not, you know we have an airpark in Warner Robins; and Andersonville, so we have people come here from Ohio," Buzzell said.
"We've added on a water park that supersedes visitation in a three-month period than I think any other place in Houston County. Then, we've added on a hotel for stay-cations, a rooftop bar, and we have plans for multiplying all of that," Rigby said.
The Bureau estimated Rigby's had more than 200,000 visitors last summer, and they're projecting even more this summer.
Buzzell says the biggest sources of visitors are from Charlotte, Nashville, Birmingham, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee. She says people stay overnight, on average, for 2.4 days at a time.
Buzzell says Warner Robins' Convention and Visitors Bureau pulled this data from the following sources: Longwood INT Georgia Travel USA Visitor Profile, International States Travel Database (Tourism Economics), Georgia Tourism Satellite Account (Tourism Economics & U.S. Travel Association), Google Analytics, and GDOT.