It’s easy to get used to things you see everyday, things you pass on your way to work.
Like Peach State Summer Theatre, now is its 25th year and its ninth year of being at Valdosta State University.
Or The Crescent, or the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts, or our rich history, or our amusement park.
But for each person brought to Valdosta this summer by one of these attractions, more money comes into the community, via our restaurants, our stores and our hotels.
The better the attendance for our attractions, the better for the local economy.
“Attendance in season-pass sales are significantly up,” said Matt Duda, Wild Adventures director of sales and marketing. “We expect this summer’s attendance to be high. As the economy recovers post-recession, things have gotten better year after year.”
Wild Adventures works to equally attract local guests who’ve probably already visited the park and new guests from outside of the area.
So the park is always creating new attractions.
Wild Adventures has added a new, open-air Meerkat exhibit and installed a large butterfly garden in the old Safari Gardens portion of the park. There, kids can get nectar sticks and actually feed the hundreds of butterflies in the garden.
New summer shows and concerts are underway. This year, Wild Adventures has added two shows that are randomly performed throughout the park; one, a group of plumbers arrives to fix leaks; two, a hip-hop dance crew that pops out of a truck and dances, getting the audience dancing along, too.
Those acts, along with racing pigs, a new Wild West show and an extreme pogo stunt show, add new experiences for repeat local guests as well as guests from outside the region.
While Wild Adventures plays a large role in local tourism, it’s not the only draw for summer tourists.
The Crescent, for example, boasts an international crowd of visitors in any given month.
“I keep a day-by-day record,” said Myrtle Kelly, The Crescent’s tourism chairperson. “We have people from all over the world here: Russia, Japan, Korea, France, Germany, Iceland, Ukraine, just every place.”
Each month sees anywhere from 80 to 300 visitors.
“Some days we have no one, some days we have 30 or 40,” Kelly said. “Naturally, the attendance is larger now since we’ve had the convention and visitor’s bureau.”
One area of summer tourism that Tyra Howard, area director of tourism and film, highlights is the number of softball and baseball tournaments taking place in Valdosta.
“Almost every weekend this summer, there’s a tournament going on,” said Howard.
The tournaments range from kids between 6 and 10 to adults.
“They’re packing out our hotels, eating at our restaurants, buying our gas, shopping at our stores,” Howard said.
More Valdosta visitors are staying the night, too, whether they’re here for Peach State Summer Theatre, the historical driving tour, The Crescent, the Turner Arts Center, or other attractions.
“When the economy was really down, people were doing staycations in their own communities,” Howard said. “Now, I see more people are staying overnight.”
Valdosta’s proximity to Interstate 75 makes it a prime stop for motor-coach tours heading to and from Orlando, but while many of them stop in the area for a quick meal, Howard would like to see them stop for the night in Valdosta.
“We appreciate that dinner business, but we’re trying hard to tap into that and get them to spend that night.”
Pro-Valdosta billboards start in the Atlanta area and come south, while Howard updates the Visit Valdosta website and social media, attends motor-coach shows and works to bring in visitors, both repeat and first-time.
“We’re always looking for new ideas to entice people into our community. Savannah isn’t the only place you can go and do tours. We are capable and ready.”