Natural beauty, numerous parks and the close proximity to Atlanta has contributed in recent years to Forsyth County’s growing population, and now, the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce is hoping it attracts more visitors.
At a meeting of the Forsyth County Development Authority on Thursday morning, Michelle Daniels, the Chamber’s director of tourism, presented a plan to draw tourism to Forsyth County, particularly in the targeted industries of film, weddings and sports tournaments.
“What we are working on is a five-year plan to recruit more tourism and share with the masses all the great, unique experiences that we have,” she said.
Daniels said part of the plan was making information more accessible to visitors through both print and online media.
“We’re making it incredibly easy and digitally savvy for all the visitors that come and stay in our back yard,” she said. “Our visitors’ guide is actually going to be available on your phones, on your devices, because 94 percent of people that actually go into a community, they Google everything first. So we want to make sure they can access everything on their phones.”
While movies and weddings are areas the Chamber would like to grow, Daniels said sports tournaments have “predominantly been our bread and butter.”
“I’m sure many are very aware of how incredible our parks and recreation department is. It’s so fun for me to go to these tradeshows and show the masses what we have,” Daniels said. “We sit on 52 softball/baseball fields, so that is a huge, huge number. To put that into perspective, Alpharetta has 16.”
Daniels said multi-use, synthetic turf fields were a popular selling point. For instance, the U.S. Youth Soccer Georgia State Cup starts Memorial Day weekend, which will bring 160 teams to Forsyth County over 10 days and is expected to generate 2,500 room-nights for local hotels.
Filming in Georgia has become a major industry in Georgia and is growing in Forsyth County.
Several productions have made Forsyth County their home, including the Netflix series “Ozark,” “Vampire Diaries,” “Goosebumps,” “Love & Hip Hop,” “Fast and Furious 8,” “Game Night,” “AMC’s Halt & Catch Fire” and HGTV’s “Bargain Hunters.”
“We had over 467 projects, film productions, TV shows, movies, all of that, filming in Georgia in 2018, and it generated $2.9 billion in direct spending, which is incredible,” Daniels said. “So, we’re trying to get a little piece of that pie.”
In addition to having outdoor scenery such as Sawnee Mountain, Poole’s Mill Bridge or Lake Lanier, the diversity of buildings in the county can be used to shoot scenes for everything from farms to courthouses to businesses to suburban homes.
Daniels said Forsyth County’s permitting for filming is also much quicker than other areas, saying it took about six days compared to the city of Atlanta’s 14 days.
The Chamber is also working with wedding venues and hotels to be more accommodating, including using popular wedding sites The Knot and Wedding Wire.
“We are also offering complimentary wedding welcome bags for those brides and grooms who have an extensive hotel block. Say they have 12 or 15 rooms or more, we will offer some complimentary welcome bags,” Daniel said. “It’ll have a couple of snacks, it’ll have the visitor guide in there, it’ll have a couple of brochures on things to do so they aren’t taking that money and going to Alpharetta or Avalon or Johns Creek or Roswell.”