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Columbia Co. has new plans to capture more tourists

Columbia County earned almost $4 million from tourists this past year. That saved each household there $259. They know they

Columbia County gained almost $4 million in sales taxes from tourists this past year. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 7, 2011)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011

COLUMBIA CTY., Ga. -- Stephen Hill Reasoner III enjoyed a quiet afternoon with friends and family on Clarks Hill Lake.

"It's starting to get a little hot, but before now, it's been beautiful," he said.

He has a home in Columbia County, but his home this summer was an RV. He's been camping along the lake since early April.

"I think we have one more big weekend. Of course, it'll be Labor Day. It'll be full up here again. That's why we like this point. We meet a lot of people, and it's always packed," he said.

Reasoner says it's packed with people from all over the country.

"I mean there's people that stop -- especially people driving these big motorhomes like the one behind us over there. You see quite a few of them," he said.

Those are exactly the types of tourists Beda Johnson looks for. She's executive director at the Columbia County Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

"We were able to collect $115 million in tourist spending," she told News 12.

A few days ago, she submitted her organization's annual report to the County Commission. During that same meeting, the commission approved a measure to start kayak and bike rentals at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion.

"[It's] a great addition and something that we will be able to sell internationally to people who are traveling and want to just stop for rest," she said.

Johnson said it's just another step to bolster tourism.

"We have 1,200 jobs in the hospitality industry and that's more than any one employer that's located in Columbia County," she said.

While hospitality jobs may not be the highest paying, she says they're important.

"It puts millions of dollars into paychecks of Columbia County residents that they can turn around and spend other places," she said.

Johnson said the county gained almost $4 million in sales taxes from tourists this year. That saved each household there $259.

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