Atlanta’s tourist allure rising, by some measures

5:57 p.m Monday, July 10, 2017 Business
Civil Rights Tours Atlanta take visitors to important sites in the city’s involvement in civil rights, including the house where Martin Luther King Jr. lived at the time of his assassination and where his wife Coretta raised their four children. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Metro Atlanta’s luster as a tourist destination has grown a bit shinier this year, according to a study by a company that tracks bookings and searches.

Demand for Atlanta stays was up 24.2 percent during the past three months compared to the same period of last year – after rising 16.9 percent during the first three months of the year, according to Hotels Combined.

The 12-year-old, Australia-based company offers comparative prices for hotel stays around the world. The Atlanta calculation was done at the request of the AJC.

About 51 million people came to visit metro Atlanta last year, according to DK Shifflet and Associates.

Most tourists to Atlanta came from elsewhere in the United States. In fact, the most common state of origin was Georgia, which accounted for roughly 40 percent of visitors, DK Shifflet said.

The next most common were visitors from Florida, California, Illinois and Michigan.

About 1.2 million visitors came from outside the United States, according to Tourism Economics and the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The United Kingdom sends the most visitors to Atlanta, according to the survey. Behind it: Germany, Australia, Sweden and Norway.

The data seems to hold only hints of an impact on Atlanta so far from the ongoing controversy about immigration and the Trump administration restrictions on travel. Perhaps the only striking change: Nigeria last year ranked fifth for sending visitors from overseas.

This year, Nigeria didn’t make the top 20.

But most other countries that were on the list last year – including India, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – are again in the top 20.

Georgia tourism generated $61.1 billion in direct, indirect and “induced” economic impact last year, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development. While no precise statistics are available, a little more than half of tourism’s economic impact in Georgia is probably in metro Atlanta, said Kevin Langston, the state’s deputy commissioner for tourism.

Leisure and hospitality is a sizeable part of the metro Atlanta economy: about 300,000 people work in the sector, up 3.3 percent from a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It is difficult to break out the impact of spending by out-of-towners from the spending by full-time residents. But clearly, many thousands of jobs are accounted for by the food, accommodation and entertainment choices of that roughly 50 million people times however many days they are in town.

R. Mark Woodworth, senior managing director at CBRE Hotels in Atlanta, said the data he’s seen is somewhat more conservative than that of Hotels Combined. He cited reports that show an uptick of less than 1 percent in demand for lodging here.

“The marketplace (for tourists) continues to become more and more competitive,” he said. “We need look no further north than Nashville to see that.”

But Atlanta jobs and income are still seeing solid improvement, he said. “In summary, the outlook remains bright for Atlanta’s hoteliers – the fundamentals are solid.”

The booming tourism business has nearly $61 billion in economic impact with several attractions that draw visitors.
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