Civil War anniversary tourists aren't invading Georgia

Augusta Canal Authority guide Julie Boone (center) talks about the Confederate Powder Works chimney during a Petersburg Boat tour with an emphasis on Augusta’s Civil War past.
Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012 5:00 PM
Last updated Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 8:17 AM
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ATLANTA — State officials had hoped the 150th anniversary of the Civil War would find visitors marching to Georgia.

Augusta offers canal tours to the site of the Confederate Powder Works, where only the chimney remains.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
Augusta offers canal tours to the site of the Confederate Powder Works, where only the chimney remains.

So far, however, any tourist boom has been about as silent as the spiked cannon on the Ken­nesaw Mountain Battlefield.

Georgia, the site of more Civil War battles than any state except Virginia, had an opportunity to capitalize on its assets, officials said, but for various reasons the opportunity isn’t being fully exploited.

“The state, I think, had larger plans at one point before the cuts came,” said Rebecca Rogers of the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area, referring to a lingering budget shortfall.

Augusta offers canal tours to the site of the Confederate Powder Works, where only the chimney remains. A plaza with interpretive signs is planned around the chimney, and the community has occasional lectures there.

“Augusta isn’t one that springs immediately to mind for the average person,” Rogers said.

Other state sites are better known. Georgia is the birthplace and resting place of generals and other Confederate leaders, including its vice president, Alexander Stephens. Its president, Jefferson Davis, was captured here. Even fictional works – most famously Gone With the Wind – celebrate Georgia’s role.

The state has made modest efforts to raise awareness. For example, the Georgia Department of Economic Development highlighted the Great Locomotive Chase of April 12, 1862, in which Union soldiers in civilian clothes made off with a Confederate train engine, leading to a dramatic railroad chase.

Promotions yielded some results. Quick-response codes in ads and posters led 133 smartphone users to scan for more information, including a special advertising section in Trains magazine.

A video was played 537 times and an audio file 158 times, helping to swell the crowd at events commemorating the raid.

But aside from specialized publications, Georgia hasn’t really launched a major campaign focused on the Civil War.

It doesn’t do any television advertising, other than sponsoring Georgia Traveler on Georgia Public Broadcasting. The print, online and billboard advertising it does focuses on working mothers seeking vacations that offer family activities such as fishing, stargazing, hiking and kayaking, which are not unique to Georgia.

However, the department does feature Civil War commemorations in a newsletter e-mailed to about 2,000 subscribers, and it is scripting driving tours. Plans also call for an online video, welcome-center brochures, and familiarization trips for tour operators and travel writers next year, all related to the war, but no mass marketing, according to Stefanie Paupeck, a specialist on the department’s marketing and communications staff.

“We’ve been very limited with the budget we have,” she said. “We’re trying to do things that would benefit all travelers, not just the history buffs.”

Attracting travelers is important. Tourism is a potent economic engine because it doesn’t require the lead time of factory construction, doesn’t have spewing smokestacks and is more labor-intensive than manufacturing. As a source of foreign revenue, it is growing this year at double the rate of average U.S. exports.

“America’s economic recovery is being driven largely by the travel industry,” said Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Each international visitor we welcome to the U.S. helps to support local communities and small businesses across our country. This is a tremendous opportunity.”

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corgimom 11/26/12 - 06:18 am
“America’s economic recovery

“America’s economic recovery is being driven largely by the travel industry,” said Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

Wow, this is news to the rest of the country!

southern2 11/26/12 - 07:58 am
After the bashing, flag

After the bashing, flag changing, race baiting, push to make everything southern despicable and hated, Georgia officials are sad that they can't make a buck off of it. Wow, it takes a lot of nerve. Also, why use the picture showing the powderworks chimney with the Confederate banner attatched. It was removed when the Kroc center was built.

Riverman1 11/26/12 - 08:02 am
Civil War Visitors Welcome, But...

Don't bring The Great Invader back to Georgia please. We haven't gotten over him yet.

seenitB4 11/26/12 - 09:53 am
Scarlett & Rhett

Yall are going about this the wrong way.....bring on Scarlett & Rhett to make this work......& mammy too.......Prissy too......we need a Tara in the CSRA......why is this so hard to grasp.......LOL

wayne2410 11/26/12 - 10:19 am
Southern makes the best

Southern makes the best point, considering the way the press and some of our own elected officials have spent the last couple of decades or so portraying all of us southerners as hateful, ignorant, intolerant violent people, it is no wonder no one is visiting. They probably are scared to death to figuring they would be stabbed, shot, hung, and drug down the street. That is what the liberal press has been telling everyone about us so this should be expected.

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