Tourism revenue fell by $6.2 million last year from 2018, but Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism is predicting a better future ahead.
Highlights of new initiatives were presented Wednesday along with the office’s annual report to the Greater Rome Convention & Visitors Bureau board of directors.
Renovating the Rome Area History Center on Broad Street and creating the Rome mascot “Capi,” based on the mythical Capitoline Wolf, are among the changes noted by Tourism Executive Director Lisa Smith. Goals for 2020 include increasing special events rentals at the history center and ensuring a variety of interesting sporting and other events.
Smith said the cancellation of the Wings over North Georgia air show was one of the main reasons economic impact revenues dipped from $19.4 million in 2018 to $13.2 million in 2019.
The loss of that annual show alone cost the area $3.6 million, she said.
“For anybody out in our citizenship who run any kind of place or work at the airport, it is a significant impact,” Smith said.
WONG chief of staff and GRCVB board member Tina Talton assured the board the air show would be back this year, scheduled for Oct. 24 to 25.
“We still get people who tell us how much the show positively impacts their business,” Talton said.
Also absent from Rome’s schedule last year were two USA Track & Field events that represented a loss of $1.2 million. Fewer Jehovah’s Witness conferences — causing a $947,000 dip in income to the city — and fewer reunions being booked, for a $474,000 loss, also affected the bottom line..
The 2019 annual report also contained good news, Smith said, of high-earning events that show how successfully the tourism staff and other local movers and shakers can sell Rome to outsiders:
The Rome River Jam had a total economic impact of $950,000; the North Georgia Balloon Festival brought in $726,900; the Going Caching! event brought $471,545; the USTA GA Adult League Championships represented $460,400 and the Schnauzerfest brought in $416,250.
The U.S. Travel Association’s most recent report looks at the total impact of travel and tourism in Rome and Floyd County in 2018. It shows a 7% steady increase in travel, payroll and tax revenues from year to year was alive and well with a total estimate of $169 million — or $463,178 per day.
During 2018, the local tourism industry employed 1,460 people and travelers to the area generated $6.81 million in state tax revenue and $4.94 million in local tax revenue.
In comparison, tourism expenditures in 2008 were about $114 million, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s calculations, which are always a year behind.
For 2020 and beyond, Tourism Communications Director Kristi Kent revealed the latest creative endeavor — the mascot “Capi” aimed at generating interest in Rome’s history for younger Romans.
“It was an office brainstorm, thinking about the best way to relate to kids,” Kent said after the GRCVB board meeting. “The Capitoline Wolf is a big part of Rome history and we’re trying to tie everything happening at the museum and elsewhere to Rome’s history. So it went from finding a plush toy to creating digitized images and activities to eventually an actual costumed Capi character. Kids will love it.”
Smith, too, has become energized by the increased activity already happening at the RAHC. From upgrading the third-floor event space with new lighting, a 24-speaker sound system, 150 new chairs and an order of cocktail tables, her office already has received bookings for 24 private events — compared to only a handful in 2019.
Smith told the board she and historian Selena Tilly will be knocking out walls and beginning to build new pathways in the museum on Sunday and Monday.
“The basic plan is to not have a bowling alley feel, but to have a maze that takes you through and cuts you around,” Smith said. “You’ll start seeing changes every time you come through. We’re very excited.”