WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — We've been telling you that Warner Robins is attracting more businesses and more residents, but it's also attracting more tourists!
In fact, the city's already seen more visitors this year than before the pandemic, putting them beyond their 2019 numbers.
The Southeast Tourism Society says Warner Robins is making a tourism "comeback."
"Recovery is happening in this region, which is great," Monica Smith said.
Smith is the society's President and CEO. She says Warner Robins surpassed its 2019 tourism numbers.
"Particularly in the Southeast, what we found the Southeast region of the United States fared much better in terms of the tourism recovery after the immediately following and long-term of the pandemic, and that's great; and it's because of our great assets, our location, the weather, all of the outdoor recreation experiences, museums, the festival and events that can happen outdoors--all of that helped our region of the country to recover faster," Smith said.
Warner Robins Convention & Visitors Bureau's Executive Director is Marsha Buzzell. She says their tourism benchmarks are 13 percent higher than in 2019.
"It's the state's job to get people to come here internationally. It's our job to get them to come to us now. What do we have that is going to interest them and then it's the hotel's job to get them to stay at their hotel. So, it's a partnership," Buzzell said.
A partnership Wendy Klein knows all too well. Klein works for the Ramada by Wyndham on Watson Boulevard.
"Sometimes it's local people that are at the hotel. Sometimes workers, nurses, who are working overnight shifts, people that are maybe having their houses redone," Klein said.
"I am so thrilled that our region and our state has fared so well, but there are so many other areas that are still trying to recover, but we do need to be cognizant of our workforce to support the hospitality and tourism growth in the industry and really be strategic of our workforce issues for future tourism leaders," Klein said.
Buzzell says visitors spend $700,000 a day in Houston County.
"For example, one of the economic impact numbers from the State of Georgia, this is not from our office saying this---there is so much tourism activity in Houston County that daily it's over $700,000 that is spent, and I know people might question that because they don't see it or understand, but tourism is much wider picture. It's not just one thing. It's not just Buc-ee's. It's not just the Museum of Aviation. It's spas, golf courses. It's places like Staples, Office Depot, and Staples, because people are coming into town for business trips and have a need for supplies, and so that counts as tourism, car rentals and staying at the hotels. All of that is so important. So, this is our day to tell them thank you for being a part of our team because we could not do it without them," Buzzell said.
"As I came in and where I stayed last night, I didn't remember the four hotels in that area; so I do think when a community is thriving and attracting all kinds of businesses and visitors that definitely gives an opportunity for new hotel development and hotels expansion and renovations or repurposing facilities like this one today to use for conferences and events. So, that is always great news because the more people you can get coming to conferences and hotels, the more jobs it supports in the community," Klein said.
The constant activity adds up to more than a quarter billion a year.
Wednesday's event also celebrated the Convention & Visitors Bureau's 28th year of existence.
"It's important everybody come together so I can tell them thank you, and that's really what this is all about. It's important to keep your partners close and what you're doing," Buzzell said.
Smith also said the city's growth helps the state's overall economy.