At least 2,000 people who are not residents of the Cartersville/Adairsville area are spending the night in Bartow County every night of the year, according to the results of a major tourism study presented to Adairsville and north Bartow County community leaders Thursday by Ellen Archer, executive director of the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Most of those people are spending at least two nights here,” Archer said.
Archer said the hotel industry in Bartow County is dominated by older economy type hotels. She said that almost a third of the hotel rooms in the county have been added within the last five years.
“We’ve got to have new ones,” Archer said.
“Our occupancy has gone up from 49% to 65% since 2012, so we’re definitely heading in the right direction,” Archer said. The business group learned that most of the nicer hotels are generally booked up first.
Archer said that was particularly true in Adairsville, which is served by a Quality Inn, a Knights Inn and a Hampton Inn and Suites.
The hotel industry took in took in more than $44 million. At the end of 2018 the average that people were paying for a hotel room was $98 a night. The market mix showed that 43% of the rooms were walk-in and only 23% were booked before the guests arrived.
A slight majority of the room nights were business-related, which Archer tied back to the need for more upscale hotels. The 34% of rooms booked by leisure travelers was “very strong” according to Archer.
“Family reunions are getting stronger and stronger,” Archer said.
The study revealed a need for a shift in marketing strategy. Archer said millennials respond differently to messaging and that more attention is being shifted to Internet sources so that the next generation of travelers can access information off their phone.
What are people visiting Bartow County for? Tellus Museum was at the top of the list followed, by the LakePoint Sporting community, Booth Western Museum, Lake Allatoona and Red Top Mountain State Park. Archer said that outdoor activity, specifically use of the river by canoe and kayak paddlers, is growing.
Sole Commissioner Steve Taylor reminded the audience that Bartow County has more campsites than hotel rooms. The McKinney campground operated by the Corps of Engineers is one of the largest Corps-operated campsites in the country.
“They stay, too,” Archer said of the visitors to the campgrounds.
The Cartersville-Bartow County CVB has assumed management of a former Girl Scout camp on the south end of the county and has turned it into Pine Acres Retreat with two large event facilities and accommodations under-roof for approximately 100 visitors. Two-thirds of those beds are in bunk-style cabins clustered around central living areas which are Internet accessible and have fully-equipped kitchens. The retreat has a large pool, and of course, access to the lake.
The Barnsley Resort in Adairsville also made the top 10, but Archer said that was largely a niche upscale market for visitors.
Archer said that revenue generated by tourism reduces the average Bartow County property tax bill by about $200.