ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Tourism is growing rapidly in Albany, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy.
Tourism in Albany has grown 20 percent over the last four years. It now has an economic impact of more than $220 million a year. Officials say there are several reasons for the increase.
Monika Chilton is from Gulfport, Mississippi, and spent the day walking through the streets of downtown Albany with her dog and family.
"We decided to go this beautiful Turtle Park and I love Ray Charles music, so we went to visit Ray Charles monument," said Chilton.
While Chilton's in town she can also visit other attractions in Albany like Chehaw Park, the Civil Rights Institute or Radium Springs Garden. City leaders say there are several factors behind the increase in South Georgia tourism.
"Funding is more available for folks, particularly for school groups to come which is a large portion of our attendance," said Tommy Gregors, Executive Director of the Flint RiverQuarium and Thronateeska Heritage Center. "Some folks are staying closer to home in our region. So they'll go for the quick weekend getaway."
Gregors says cheap gas is also a benefit. He's seeing an increase in visitors at the Flint RiverQuarium and Thronateeska Heritage Center.
"We've seen about a 10 to 20 percent increase in visitors there and this past Spring, we had a very strong visitation with school groups particularly, and a large majority of those school groups were from out of town," said Gregors.
Gregors says they're constantly working on adding more to their collection at both locations. As for Chilton, she says she'll be back. "I love the South," she said.
Mayor Dorothy Hubbard will host a forum focusing on the local tourism industry June 21st from 4 to 6 at the Albany Welcome Center in downtown Albany.