STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - Tourism has become a $61 billion industry in Georgia, but it's not all beaches, mountains, and big cities.
Smaller communities are looking for ways to market themselves to visitors and get in on the action. Many of them have come to Statesboro this week to learn from statewide developers.
Who knew a small water park inside a county recreation complex could bring thousands of visitors from across Southeast Georgia, but those in town for the Regional Visitor Information Center Conference can see how to promote whatever you have.
The folks who filled the banquet room on Thursday all work somewhere in Georgia, trying to bring visitors to their part of the state. Directors say it's a bigger business than some in the state realize.
"About 450,000 Georgians owe their jobs to tourists coming here, leaving their dollars, and going home again," said Kevin Langston, Georgia Tourism.
While the group meets in Statesboro this week, they're seeing attractions that have helped market the community, from a university wildlife center to a waterpark and even college football games.
"Statesboro has been one on the forefront of focusing on their unique opportunities that they have in their city," said Pat Wilson, Georgia Econ Development.
He says the internet and social media can help smaller communities market themselves and showcase whatever they have.
"Even small towns that might not have the chance at a manufacturing facility, they all have a beautiful old church or a trail next to the river," Langston said.
They say it's not as much bringing in new attractions as it is highlighting what they may already have.
The visitor center directors in Statesboro must be doing something right. The organization named them their Center of the Year for 2018.