Television fans will descend on Covington this weekend as a showing of the premier of the final season for The Vampire Diaries on Friday, Oct. 21 and the Heat Gathering 2016 for In the Heat of the Night Saturday, Oct. 22.
Fans help bring tourism dollars into Newton County, Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce Director of Tourism, Jenny McDonald said. The Georgia Department t of Economic Development just released the state’s 2015 tourism figures.
In Newton County, according to the Covington-Newton County Convention and visitors Bureau, those numbers showed that tourism dollars:
• supported 1,140 jobs with a payroll of $23.38 million;
• generated $125.60 million in direct tourist spending, up $5.49 million from 2014;
• created $5.14 million in state tax revenues, an increase of $470,000 over 2014; and
• generated $3.70 million in local tax revenues, an increase of $100,000 over 2014 figures.
According to the report, each Newton County household received $245.63 in tax relief per household as a result of taxes generated by tourism economic activity.
And while film and television related tourism is just part of those figures, McDonald said she has to report statistics monthly to the state that include the number of visitors who stop by the Welcome Center at 2101 Clark Street.
In September, 2,800 visitors representing 25 states as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany or Norway came to Covington. “The numbers have trended up, up, up for the last three years,” McDonald said. “We would probably say 90 percent is because of The Vampire Diaries.
If the September numbers were impressive, July and August were outstanding. In August, 3,698 visitors came to Covington from 26 states, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, England, Germany, India, Norway, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden or Trinidad.
In July, 3,885 visitors arrived in Covington. McDonald anticipates the number of visitors will spike this month, primarily, she said, because the premiere of The Vampire Diaries happens in October.
The numbers McDonald said represent only those who came to The Welcome Center and signed the visitor’s book. “It would be fair to say, you could add another quarter or third more people,” she said.
The film and television production business has grown. Currently three television series are being filmed in Newton County — The Vampire Diaries, The Originals and Sleepy Hollow. Both A Case for Christ and Life of the Party just finished filming in Covington. And location scouts continue to come to McDonald, interesting in filming here.
“I would say [during] the month of September [there was] lots and lots of scouting,” McDonald said, adding she estimates she spent between 25 and 30 hours either researching locations or showing scouts potential film sites.
Scouts, she said, usually don’t give notice that they are coming. They used to call, giving about five minutes notice of their arrival, she said, but now they just walk in. “They feel comfortable with the staff,” McDonald said.
According to one location scout, who recommended that the camera-ready person in a small town northeast of Atlanta talk to McDonald, whose Covington-Newton’s staff makes filming in the area run seamlessly.