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Governor says nearly $6 million in COVID relief funds will go to Georgia state tourism agency

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday that Explore Georgia, the agency, would receive the money.

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday that nearly $6 million in federal COVID relief funds will go the state's agency that promotes tourism, Explore Georgia.

The agency is a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. It's not clear how precisely how Explore Georgia will use the $5.8 million in relief money, but the governor said in a statement it would "help Georgia's travel and hospitality industry compete in a highly competitive marketing landscape."

According to the Governor's Office, the agency's website, exploregeorgia.org, saw a 59% increase in traffic during the 2021 fiscal year with more than 11 million visits as "other destinations across the nation saw a sluggish rebound in website traffic."

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The Governor's Office says Georgia totaled 151.8 million visits in 2020, making it the fifth-ranked state (up from No. 7 the year before) in overnight visitation.

 According to the U.S. Travel Association, in 2019 the travel industry supported nearly 300,000 jobs in Georgia and generated $6.2 billion in tax receipts.

I’m incredibly proud of the resilience of our tourism industry," Gov. Kemp said in a statement. "While we still have a long way to go to full recovery, the fact that Georgia’s tourism industry saw gains during such a difficult year is astonishing and I am committed to ensuring we maintain this positive momentum."

Mark Jaronski, the deputy commissioner of tourism at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said Georgia is "not immune to the challenges" posed by the pandemic, but has been "successful in maximizing the travel business that does exist and leveraging it to grow Georgia's share of domestic travel and economic position."