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Forecaster: In 2021 expect sizable Georgia tourism recovery

FILE - Lighter than normal traffic flow in and out downtown Atlanta Monday, April 6, 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
FILE - Lighter than normal traffic flow in and out downtown Atlanta Monday, April 6, 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ATLANTA – An economic forecaster says Georgia should expect to see substantial recovery of its tourism industry next year after hotels and other businesses that rely on travelers lost billions to the coronavirus pandemic.

Adam Sacks, president of the firm Tourism Economics, made the prediction during a virtual summit hosted by the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

His presentation Wednesday showed that travel spending in Georgia dropped $8.6 billion between March and August compared to the same period last year. That’s more than 20% of the $39 billion that visitors spent throughout Georgia in all of 2019.

Still, tourism spending has steadily begun to recover in the months since Georgia began lifting its coronavirus lockdown in late April. Sacks predicted that will continue.

Demand for hotel rooms in Georgia should return to 90% of last year’s levels sometime in 2021, Sacks said. He said a full recovery is likely by 2023.

Georgia saw a record 152.3 million visitors in 2019, according to state officials, and those travelers directly supported 484,056 jobs.

According to Sacks, Georgia lost 17% of its travel and leisure jobs since February — making it the state’s hardest-hit job sector during the pandemic.