ATLANTA --- The $21 billion that tourists spent in Georgia in 2010 not only represented an 8.3 percent increase, but also beat the record set back in 2008.
The state released spending estimates Wednesday produced by the U.S. Travel Association, and Gov. Nathan Deal was pleased with the results.
"In a challenging economic climate, tourism has been a source of strength as more and more people discover what Georgia has to offer," he said.
Indeed, spending by foreign tourists jumped 15 percent, making Georgia the state with the fourth-largest increase.
The spending categories seem to reflect visitors making longer trips with the largest gains in commercial transportation at 11 percent and auto transport at 13 percent.
"That doesn't mean some hotels weren't challenged to get the revenue in," said Barry White, CEO of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Those hotel revenue increases have come through higher rates because occupancy rates are down in Augusta, according to White. So far in 2011, revenues in Augusta are growing at a record clip.
The increases last year also came at a time when the state had less money to spend on promotions. The Department of Economic Development has dealt with steeper cuts than most agencies.