The past year was a big improvement for Rome’s tourism office, which was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“We definitely saw an uptick in visitation this year and we hope that 2022 is on the same wonderful velocity upward,” Tourism Director Lisa Smith said.
This year saw the return of many big events such as Schnauzerfest, the Wings Over North Georgia air show and Going Caching. Rome and Floyd County also picked up some new events, including several tournaments at the Rome Tennis Center.
The tourism office worked closely with other city and county entities for some of their biggest events, including River Jam and the annual air show.
“A lot of the relationships we’ve had in past years, we continue to build on,” Smith said.
The Rome Area History Center also had a record year for visitation and programming, according to Smith. Curator Selena Tilly was officially named the history director for the center and developed several programs at the center.
“We finished all of our renovations and we were able to get our programming back, especially our tours,” Smith said. “But the most exciting thing was seeing school kids again and seeing them learn about the rich history right here in Rome.”
Sports tourism also thrived in 2021, with the most recent event being the Georgia Elite Classic over at Barron Stadium.
“We had 260 athletes, eighth to 12th graders, playing football at Barron Stadium,” Smith said. “All three games were even televised on CBS.”
The National Track and Field championships also took place at Barron Stadium and people from all over the country came to Rome to compete.
Ann Hortman, the sports tourism director, booked several tennis tournaments over at the Rome Tennis Center and has several more booked for 2022 — including the 60K Professional Women’s Tournament at the end of January.
“We’re also seeing the return of spectators at our events,” Smith said.
However, there were still some roadblocks the tourism office ran into along the way.
The Forum River Center has been used for court proceedings for a majority of the past year, to allow for social distancing during the pandemic. That left the tourism office with many cancellations, including the Georgia Fire Service Conference.
“We really struggled to save our conference and meeting business because of the courts occupying that space,” Smith said. “That was not as successful a story as I’d like to be telling, but it was necessary to get through and necessary for the courts.”
The Forum is expected to open back up for booking events in January and Smith plans for the tourism office to begin booking years in advance to allow for plenty of time.
“In general, this has been a year we’re proud of. We’ve remained tough and still maintained great relationships with entities in our community,” Smith said. “We look forward to doing more good business in the new year.”
The final 2021 report is still in the works and will be presented at the first tourism committee meeting of 2022.