Macon's hotel occupancy was down 2.8 percent during the past fiscal year, however, revenue increased 1.8 percent or $49.2 million due to higher average daily rates, CVB President/CEO Janice Marshall said in her state of the industry report to about 150 people.
Macon's hotel occupancy rate is close to the national average, which is down 2.6 percent, while Atlanta suffered a 4.9 percent decrease, she said.
One special visitor to Macon and Bibb County last November helped bring a great deal of media attention to the area.
When talk-show host Oprah Winfrey filmed her "Favorite Things Show" here, the marketing exposure was hard to beat, Marshall said.
"If we had bought the Oprah show and other media generated (by local, national and international sources), it would have cost $2.65 million," Marshall said. "You can't imagine the number of people who called ... who wanted to go where Oprah went."
The CVB's new $2.9 million center on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was successful at attracting 21,334 visitors during the past fiscal year, as compared to 19,366 the year before, Marshall said.
Convention sales were flat during the past year with 352 meetings bringing 133,475 people compared to 360 meetings last year, which brought about 130,350 people here. But Marshall is optimistic that the new Marriott hotel under construction adjacent to the Wilson Convention Center and other new hotels built recently will help bring an increase in conventions.
The travel industry does more than put money into the hotels and tourist sites, Marshall said.
Tourism pumps about $257 million into the local economy and it sustains more than 3,200 jobs, she said. It also generated $17.9 million in sales tax revenue, of which $7.6 million went to the local governments. The figures were based on a 2006 study by the Travel Industry Association of America.
Guest speaker Berkeley Young, owner of Charlotte, N.C.-based Young Strategies Inc., presented an overall look at the travel industry.
"As we look at 2008, we predict slow growth," because of gas prices, food prices, the mortgage crises and war in Iraq, Young said. "The American consumer is definitely pulling back, but what we see is they are pulling back at home more than when they are on the road."
While travel was a luxury a generation ago, it's now considered a necessity, so people are still going to travel, he said.
Historic sites, museums and other tourist attractions must keep in mind that they need to stay in tune with what various generations need and want, Young said. For example, the younger generation will want to use electronics as part of their tourism experience, while "baby boomers want to be spoiled," he said.
"In many ways Macon has hit a high level of success," Young said. "So many things are going on, but don't rest on your laurels. ... You are the center of Georgia, and I think you are the leader in Georgia."
The annual meeting also gave the CVB an opportunity to hand out awards to people involved in the hospitality industry.
The B.J. Cain Top of the Line award was given to E.J. Nobles with the 1842 Inn for representing the best qualities of a city ambassador to visitors.
Lynn Cass, recently retired executive director of Macon Arts, was presented the Otis Hughes Spirit of Tourism award. She was recognized for her initiative of advocating the arts and tourism in the city.
"It's been a labor of love," Cass said after accepting the award.