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LaGrange’s tourism industry sees modest turnaround

After a hectic year in 2020, LaGrange’s tourism industry is getting back on track.

Kathy Tilley, the president and CEO of Visit LaGrange, said during the LaGrange City Council’s work session Tuesday that the city’s tourism industry is picking up, especially in its hotel and motel industry, which is allowing the department to return to its marketing strategies “at full speed,” Tilley said.

“We cut our marketing spending last year when COVID hit… we did not go completely dark, but we cut it dramatically,” she said. “We are now taking all that money back up.”

Visit LaGrange will use an estimated $75,000 in social media expenses and $42,000 in ad expenses to market LaGrange’s tourism industry this fiscal year, Tilley said, adding that while these expenses are great, they are ultimately worth spending.

“It’s definitely worth it as we’re seeing that people are definitely coming back to LaGrange,” she said.

During the work session, council members discussed with Tilley possible ways to expand advertising endeavors outside of LaGrange.

Visit LaGrange specifically targets visitors within “a five-hour drive” of LaGrange, and does not target visitors who may have to fly to the area.

Councilmember Nathan Gaskin suggested possibly advertising in the Atlanta airport, as well as increasing merchandise availability in minority-owned businesses.

Tilley mulled on the idea and noted that Visit LaGrange did have unspent revenue from last year that could be possibly used to advertise in areas such as Atlanta and other places but is choosing to wait until after summer.

“We want to wait and see what summer travel will bring,” Tilley said.

This year Visit LaGrange is planning on keeping a conservative budget this year, $710,000 of which is in hotel and motel taxes, Tilley said. The budget has increased some from last year’s $657,000.

The biggest increase in its budget is in administrative and personnel expenses due to a need for extra positions to be filled when Visit LaGrange moves into its new building at the end of July, Tilley said.

“Still at 37 percent of our overall budget,” Tilley said.

“That means 67 percent will be used for marketing.”