ROSWELL, Ga. –– Supporting small businesses became crucial when COVID-19 shut down the nation.
For Fulton County and the surrounding region, tourism is a major driving force in economic development.
Jack Murphy, chairman of the North Fulton Improvement Network, highlighted the importance of the hospitality sector his Fireside Chat on April 21. The chat addressed the financial vulnerability in Fulton County and how tourism has and can affect that.
Andy Williams, executive director of Visit Roswell, and a small business advocate said tourism is crucial their number one goal, which is driving a “transient business” into the community. Getting people to explore the community amenities, historical assets, special events and other qualities is what keeps the economy alive, he said.
“It is having people come to the community to really embrace everything that we offer and to influence the economic vitality of the community through tourism visitation,” Williams said.
The tourism aspect shifted greatly, he said, when the pandemic limited traveling, so the industry focused on local residents, businesses and surrounding communities.
Tourism drives so much visitor spending in Georgia, Williams said, that if it went away, each household would have to be taxed an additional $919 per year to make up the difference. Just in Fulton County, direct tourist spending supports nearly 70,000 essential workers, which includes hoteliers, concert and other venues, private events as well as others.
The impact of residents and business owners is crucial to the economic growth of the region, Williams said. But with travel restrictions through the pandemic, the hospitality sector is only now recovering.
“We’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel,” Williams said. “For the first time, we’ve been tracking data from our hotels, and we’ve actually seen positive results that give us hope.”
There is still work to be done, Williams said, with a lot of conversation around workforce development and immediate workforce needs. Pierce said they are focusing on how Visit Roswell can work with their partners to become more involved in that conversation.
Ryan Pernice, founder of RO Hospitality, said for the restaurant scene in Roswell, he looks for employees to be able to carry on a conversation and show up with a smile.
“I think we’re one of the last true bastions of the importance of work ethic, and I don’t really care what your education or even what your work experience is,” Pernice said. “I can teach you what you need to know, and if you’re willing to work, then in restaurants you’re rewarded by work ethic.”
To learn more about the region’s workforce or other Fireside Chats, go to improvenorthfulton.org.