Hunter Hall, president of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce, gave the Covington City Council a startling scenario at its Monday meeting when he stressed the importance of having the filming industry locally.
Hall gave the council a scare when he reported that an existing industry that supplied 500 jobs would be relocating their headquarters out of the county.
However, he made it clear his comments weren't true, but he was trying to make a point about the importance of the county's tourism industry. He said if the city and county were to lose the tax revenue generated off of the tourism dollar, it would be the equivalent of losing two industries.
"The reason that I would pull your chain like that is to let you know the context of tourism. If we were to lose the tourism dollar and the tax revenue generated off the tourism dollar, it would be the equivalent of not one industry leaving, but two," Hall said. "It's huge."
He told the council that he knew there have been recent complaints and praises about the filming industry, and his goal was to present the true economic impact as it pertains to all of the residents in the city of Covington and Newton County.
"What I have for you tonight is an economic impact analysis on tourism for the city of Covington that has been done third party through the University of Tennessee through their tourism department," Hall said.
He gave the council the "2008 to 2011 Tourism Economic Fact Sheet," which listed yearly tourist activity in Covington and Newton County. Hall also presented the council with the numbers from "The Vampire Diaries" tours for the month of August.
The "2011 Tourism Economic Fact Sheet" was compiled by the Southeast Tourism Society.
Dr. Steve Morse, an economist with the Southeast Tourism Society and the University of Tennessee said the fact sheet was compiled with sources from the Georgia Department of Economic Development Tourism Division; the 2010 and 2011 Travel Economic Impact on Georgia State Counties and Regions; and the U.S. Census Bureau households by Georgia counties.
According to the 2011 Tourism Economic Fact Sheet, $100.1 million in direct tourism spending was generated in Newton County in 2011; tourism produced $18.9 million in worker income and paychecks; and 990 jobs were generated by tourism.
The report also stated that $2.95 million in local county tax revenues were created by tourism and on an average day in Newton County in 2011, tourist spending created $8,082 daily in local county tax revenues, which resulted in each household paying $178 less in local and state taxes.
The report further stated that tourist spending in Georgia from 2010 to 2011 estimated to have increased 8.6 percent; in Newton, there was an increase of 10.1 percent.
Morse said a majority of the tourism that the city and county is seeing is because of the filming industry. He said people love to visit unique towns where movies and TV shows have been filmed.
"The tourist spending is a mixture of business travel and leisure travel and certainly the film induced tourism does a lot to help that," Morse said. "And you have some festivals during the year and some cultural and arts events during the year and all of those things help."
"Film-induced tourism is very unique to Covington and Newton County," he said. "People go to these places where they see these things that are on TV or in a film and they love to go to these places. Covington and Newton County have a lot of film-based tourism and they've done a good job in attracting people," he said.
"People are looking for something different and something unique and if they follow "The Vampire Diaries" and "In the Heat of the Night," that's something unique that they can go to a town and see where it's filmed.