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Tourism promotion spotlights craft beer, culinary destinations in 2015
Study finds people come for local fare
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Jackson Kearns, a sales associate at Jaemor Farms, puts more tomatoes out for customers to buy. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Gainesville City Council

What: Vote on changes to city alcohol ordinance

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Public Safety Complex, Municipal Courtroom, 701 Queen City Parkway

State and local tourism agencies are promoting North Georgia’s culinary and drink destinations this year, with an eye on the emergence of growler bars and breweries.

That could mean big business for Hall County.

“A study sponsored by the World Food Travel Association found that almost one-third of tourists deliberately choose destinations based on the availability of activities related to local food and drink,” said Deb Gregson, Gainesville’s tourism manager and vice president of the Northeast Georgia Mountain Travel Association.

Growlers, such as Downtown Drafts and Tap It, moved into the city last year, and the craft beer producer Left Nut Brewing Co. is expected to open this spring in midtown.

“The new growlers’ addition is the perfect example of the growing interest in agriculture and culinary tourism,” Gregson said. “Both the state and the Northeast Georgia Mountain Travel Association are strongly promoting wineries, farms, local farmer’s markets, craft breweries and food festivals.”

Brad Sample, co-owner of Tap It on Thompson Bridge Road, said business has been really good and the local community has been receptive to its opening. 

He’s counting on the local tourism market to keep the positive trends going.

“I think that they’ll help us tremendously,” Sample said.

Meanwhile, City Council will vote on several proposed changes to Gainesville’s alcohol ordinance this week, which are meant to promote new businesses and mirror state regulations.

In addition to alcohol-themed destinations, such as the emergence of the county’s first farm winery in Sweet Acre Farms, there are also culinary and agri-tourism draws such as Jaemor Farms in Alto.

“Culinary tourism is a very important part of the economic impact of travel,” said Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Where to eat and where to buy food-related souvenirs are our most frequently asked questions from visitors.”

Judah Echols, an owner at Jaemor Farms, which sells fruit, jams and jellies in its retail store, among other things, said marketing and promotion helps bring in both visitors and residents of the area.

“It’s always good when the chamber of commerce or different organizations will promote tourism in your area,” he added. “Anything they can do to advertise North Georgia as a drawing card” means more business.

Gov. Nathan Deal recently hosted the Tourism, Hospitality & Arts Day at the state Capitol in Atlanta, an annual kickoff promoting the Peach State’s best destinations.

According to state officials, the tourism industry generated about $2.8 billion in state tax revenue in 2013.

“With an overall economic impact of $53.6 billion, tourism in Georgia spurs growth in nearly every community across the state,” Deal said in a statement. “Each year, the industry attracts visitors from around the world and directly benefits thousands of Georgia households by sustaining more than 411,000 jobs, making up 10.2 percent of the state’s workforce.”

This year, the tourism arm of the Georgia Department of Economic Development is highlighting local chefs, restaurants and agri-tourism destinations in its marketing efforts, with the slogan “Pretty. Sweet.”

“The Lake Lanier CVB is very encouraged by the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s focus on culinary travel in 2015,” Dickson said. “It’s a segment of travel that levels the playing field for all destinations because there are so many great places to eat and drink in Georgia.”

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