With one of the largest triathlons in the world and several statewide conventions to be held in Augusta this month, the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau expects guests to generate more than $8 million in spending in September.
That number includes thousands of hotel stays, restaurant meals and pumps at gas stations, said Peggy Seigler, the vice president of sales and marketing for the CVB.
"We're an affordable destination, so we may have benefited when people stopped going to the beaches or the Ritz for meetings," Seigler said.
The Augusta Ironman 70.3 is responsible for more than half of September's predicted visitor spending, with 6,000 total athletes and spectators expected to attend.
Tammy Stout, the executive director of the Augusta Sports Council, said that estimate is conservative. With 3,000 athletes signed up, Stout said she expects each to bring more than just one visitor along.
Besides the direct economic impact on race weekend from hotel stays and food purchases, Stout said, the city feels the effects of Ironman months in advance.
"About six months out from the event, the bike shops benefit. ... Local running clubs and triathlon clubs see increase in membership," she said. "The unexpected benefit is the amount of triathlon clubs that make advance trips to Augusta for training."
For two months leading up to the race, outside clubs bring athletes who stay in hotels and eat in Augusta restaurants while scoping out the course before race day, Stout said.
Also stimulating the local economy this month is a U.S. Department of Energy safety workshop, beginning Monday, which is projected to generate more than $1 million from 700 visitors, according to the CVB.
Kelly Ling, the public affairs specialist for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, which is host of the workshop, said coordinators have printed Augusta maps to direct visitors to local attractions.
"It should boost the economy," Ling said. "We certainly planned for these people to get out and do something. Some bring their spouses. If they're in meetings all day, the spouses go out and explore."
Despite an expected increase in participation at this year's Ironman, visitor spending during September will still be slightly behind last year. Visitors generated $8,588,262 in September 2009 compared with the $8,028,279 expected this month. The numbers don't reflect the impact of the Westobou festival this month because the CVB does not track those numbers.
Scheduling major events for September keeps the city true to its marketability as a meeting place, Seigler said.
To keep organizations interested in Augusta, the CVB and other city departments have planned advertisements in Women's Day and Southern Living magazines.
Because conventions are often booked years in advance, Seigler said, Augusta did not see a drawback from businesses committing to the city in the last few years of the recession.
The drawback has been noticed in the past six months, as organizations plan the next two years of meetings, Seigler said.
"It has nothing to do with how fabulous Augusta is," Seigler said. "People are scaling back. We're still waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel."
Ironman participants begin their swim down the Savannah River in September 2009. The 2010 event is expected to attract 6,000 athletes and spectators. \nJOHN CURRY/STAFF
The pro men athletes begin their 1.2-mile swim in the Savannah River, the first stage 70.3 mile courseat the ESI Ironman 70.3 in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009
John Curry/Staff \n MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
Chip McDonald plays a Beatles tune with the tribute band Number 9 at the 2008 Westobou Festival. This year's festival is Thursday through Sept. 25. \nJOHN CURRY/FILE
Folk artist Michelle Elliott of Hendersonville, N.C., writes out art prices at the 2009 Arts in the Heart festival. The 2010 version starts Thursday. \nJOHN CURRY/STAFF
People enjoy the artwork as Arts in the Heart opens Saturday morning in downtown Augusta, September 19, 2009.