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Posted: January 28, 2017 12:59 p.m.

2017 Georgia Travel Guide unveiled as Year of Film

Covington’s favorite vampire, Ian Somerhalder, stars on the cover

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Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston, from left, Newton County Chairman Marcello Banes, Governor Nathan Deal and Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal celebrate the unveiling on the 2017 Georgia Tourism Magazine. (Submitted Photo | The Covington News)

Members of Hospitality and Arts, and Tourism Directors representing all 159 counties of Georgia met on the North Steps of the Georgia State Capitol to await keynote speakers and Governor Nathan Deal.

Each January, the Georgia Tourism Hospitality and Arts Day is celebrated at the capitol as the theme and cover for the Georgia Travel Guide is released. At approximately 9:45 a.m., speakers introduced Governor Nathan Deal as he thanked everyone for their hard work to grow Georgia tourism, and presented recent statistics on the economic development of those efforts.

“Looking ahead, to this year, we celebrate another creative industry in Georgia. One that has grown exceptionally over the last few years,” Governor Deal said on the 2017 Year of Film. In fact, he went on to say that film in Georgia creates a tourism industry that continues to see the revenue long after productions have wrapped. Since 2007, the film industry in Georgia has generated $241 million dollars in revenue for the state. And he was proud to announce that all 159 counties in Georgia are now Camera Ready. “Every county in this state has the opportunity to be a part of this very growing part of Georgia’s Economies.”

One of Georgia’s first Camera Ready communities, Covington/ Newton County, continues to reap the benefits of film tourism from its first productions in the 70’s and 80’s such as the first five episodes of “Dukes of Hazzard” as well as the entire series of “In the Heat of the Night.” Today, it has become a hub for many popular TV and film productions, including all eight seasons of “The Vampire Diaries.” Doubling as the mythical town of Mystic Falls, Virginia, Covington was unveiled as the cover for this year’s issue with Ian Somerhalder at the Mystic Grill Restaurant in Covington/ Newton County.

Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston is proud of the recognition that his beloved town has received for the Year of Film. “Covington has always been known as the ‘Hollywood of the South,’ but being featured on the cover of the Georgia Travel Guide during Georgia’s Year of Film shows we have truly earned that moniker. Covington/Newton County is quickly becoming the premier destination for all things film related,” Johnston said.

“Filming has put Covington in a national and even international spotlight and that is exciting for our community. The added attention means more jobs, more financial investments, a thriving local economy and more entertainment options. It all equates to a better place for people to call home.”

Jenny McDonald, Director of Tourism and Marketing, says her office could not be more proud for Covington/Newton County to be in the spotlight for The Year of Film. “We have spent many years building our brand, ‘Hollywood of the South,’ and it has paid off greatly. This year is going to be an exciting time for us.”

Covington/Newton County is quickly growing with new merchants, tours, and attractions each year. Tourists who visit Covington can enjoy a variety of guided and self-guided film tours, ghost tours, food tours, and more! Having the opportunity to be included on the cover of this year’s Georgia Travel Guide is a true testament to how much the community has grown from the local film industry.

“The unveiling of the Georgia Travel Guide was a great chance to highlight Covington/Newton County to state leaders,” said Commission Chairman Marcello Banes.

“’The Vampire Diaries’ and filming overall has been great for Covington/Newton County. We’re so proud to be part of a state that supports the film industry. We hope to continue growing in the film industry and we’re excited to continue to work with new and upcoming productions coming to Newton County.”

Stop by the Newton County Visitor’s Bureau to pick up your own copy of the Georgia Travel Guide, and visit their website at www.gocovington.com for more information. This new issue of the travel guide can also be ordered online and viewed digitally at www.exploregeorgia.org. Don’t forget to share your experiences in local film this year using the hashtag #GeorgiaFilm!

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