LaFayette, GA – 2020 was a tough year for tourism. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure or limited operations of many attractions and events across the country, including Rock City and the Honeybee Festival in our region.
Prior to the pandemic, Walker County was experiencing considerable tourism growth. Unique outdoor adventures and destinations, one of a kind short-term vacation rentals, signature events like Ironman, and growth of the McLemore project on Lookout Mountain contributed to the decision by visitors to make the trip to Walker County.
The U.S. Travel Association reported direct tourist spending in Walker County jumped from $63.41 million in 2016 to $71.08 million in 2019. The report also found tourism supported 677 jobs with a payroll of $19.64 million in 2019.
The outside dollars flowing into the community resulted in $1.66 million in local tax revenue and $3.10 million for the state. The Georgia Department of Economic Development estimates tourism revenue replaced $183 in taxes for every household in Walker County.
While it may be next year before the industry recovers from the pandemic, there are signs a rebound is already underway. Ironman, the Honeybee bicycle ride, First Fridays in Chickamauga, the Boxcar Pinion Memorial Bluegrass Festival, Independence Day events and several other activities have announced their return.
There are also several new offerings being added to the calendar. McLemore launched a Songwriters Series that runs from May to October, Lula Lake Land Trust hosted a new trail race, and Hometown Music Night recently took over the downtown square in LaFayette. Plans are also in the works to create a new museum attraction in LaFayette in the not too distant future.
Adding to the “open for business” message, the 2021 Explore Georgia Official State Travel Guide was released this month to increase visitation and support tourism recovery in the state. Rock City, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park and Raulston Acres Christmas Tree Farm in Walker County are all featured in the guide.