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Monday, August 16, 2010 - 11:11am

State Pushes Rural Tourism

State officials are re-doubling efforts to promote tourism in Georgia. The fresh initiative takes special aim at small towns, like Quitman, near the border with Florida.

Only minutes off Interstate-75, Quitman might be where the casual traveler stops by an area-farm for fresh peaches or to hit its downtown for lunch.

But state economic development officials say the town and others like it is missing out on untapped tourist dollars.

Lauren Basford, president of the newly-formed tourism group Destination Brooks, says the state recently gave area leaders a blueprint on how to better market -- and build -- area tourism:

“Let’s take an inventory of your assets. Let’s see what you already have that we can market, and then let’s look at some things that you can develop over the next 18 months to two years.”

Basford says Quitman’s historic district is one of the largest in Georgia. She says the city and county hope once initiatives are put into place, eventually new jobs and revenue could result for the region.

Basford says a recent state survey revealed Brooks County brings-in a little more than $8 million in tourism dollars annually.

State officials will be doing similar economic development visits to Dublin, Liberty County, and Monticello in coming months.

Tourism is a $34 billion a year industry in Georgia.