Douglas County Travel and Tourism adopted its 2021 budget as it plans an aggressive campaign to promote the county.

By a unanimous vote, the DCTT Board of Directors adopted a $764,363 budget for 2021 during a virtual meeting Jan. 15.

DCTT has allocated $441,657 for operations, which includes radio, billboards and social media marketing of the county to potential tourists.

“We are now the county’s Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), and we are responsible for reinvesting the restricted portions of hotel-motel tax back into the promotion and marketing of Douglas County,” DCTT Board of Directors president Dorsha Simmons said in an email to the Sentinel. “We have three goals: promote Douglas County as a travel destination, increase unincorporated’s hotel occupancy (i.e. more heads in beds), and support travelers and visitors while increasing the local economic impact.”

In an earlier meeting, the DCTT approved a part-time administrative assistant at $27,600 a year and a three-month contractual social media position.

Simmons said the county has “hidden gems” that includes Foxhall Resort, Film Trails, Butterfly Trails and Sweetwater Creek State Park.

“The county has hidden gems that travelers from other states or visitors from other counties may not know of,” she said in the email. “There are unique dining and retail offerings like Blue Rose Art Bistro and The Farmer’s Table.”

While the pandemic has restricted travel and large gatherings, Simmons pointed to the state’s strong economy as a big plus.

“As the pandemic continues there will be a lack of mass gatherings or events in physical locations,” Simmons said. “There will remain a decrease in travel and therefore, a continued decrease in hotel occupancy. Nonetheless, research is showing Georgia is on a slight incline as compared to other states.”

The DCTT budget is comprised from hotel/motel taxes that the county collects. Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the county receives 37.5% of HMT, which is restricted, and DCTT receives 62.25% of the HMT, which is restricted, according to the organization’s adopted budget.

Simmons said DCTT’s strong marketing of the county is being done to combat what has been a lack of travel during the pandemic.

“We know people still have appetites for entertainment and recreation, but they want to be safe,” Simmons said. “Therefore, this year we are launching Exploration Challenges, where travelers and visitors explore various themed aspects of Douglas County. These Exploration Challenges will also incentivize people to play for prizes that anyone could use during the pandemic.

“We are marketing in states that are contiguous to Georgia, which means the proximity to drive rather than fly. For those who are still flying into Atlanta, we are promoting the county in the airport for the first time. There will be a total of 20 digital signs in both terminals’ baggage claims. Our partner hotels will offer various incentives.”

Next month, DCTT will launch Black History Month Challenge.

“Our Black History Exploration Challenge is the first of the series of Exploration Challenges we have planned for the year,” Simmons said. “Travelers and visitors will explore various parts of Douglas County that are intertwined with the county’s rich African American history. The challenge is played by cellphone and entails answering questions, taking pictures, and checking-in at the locations. The hope is to both educate and entertain while drawing people to the County. Participants will have opportunities to win monetary prizes thanks to our sponsors.”