Explore Newnan-Coweta by taking control of the Visitors Center, in search of a new space


Dramatic changes are coming in the tourism marketing and operations of the Coweta and Newnan Visitor Center, as the operations of the Coweta Visitors and Convention Bureau will now be part of Explore Newnan Coweta Inc.

The Coweta CVB was established at the end of 1992 and operates the Coweta Visitor’s Center. It was funded by hotel / motel taxes on unincorporated Coweta hotels. The City of Newnan used its hotel / motel taxes for other purposes, including the construction and operation of the Newnan Center.

In 2019, Coweta County and the City of Newnan voted to increase their hotel / motel tax rates from 5% to 8%. Under state law, part of this increase was to fund a “destination marketing organization”, and the remainder of the increase goes to “tourism product development”.

Under state law, the CVB, which operates as a 501 (c) (3) organization, was not eligible to serve as a destination marketing organization, and Explore Newnan Coweta Inc. was formed. . The organization held its first meeting in early 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed things down considerably. The organization hired its first director in July, and effective December 31, it will take over operations from CVB.

This is the first time that Coweta and the town of Newnan have jointly funded coordinated tourism marketing activities.

Of the 8% hotel / motel tax, 3% is unlimited, meaning the city and county can use it in their budgets as they see fit. The allocation of the remaining 5 percent is a little different for county and city. For the departmental tax, 3.5% goes to funding the ENCI and 1.5% to the development of tourism products, which can cover a wide variety of projects such as trails, museums and everything in between. The city of Newnan will continue to contribute 2% to the Newnan Center, which is considered the development of tourism products, and will contribute 3% to the ENCI.

Looking for a new temporary location

Hopes are to eventually house ENCI, including several employees and the visitor center, in a reconstruction of the Newnan passenger depot, which would be built next to the existing freight depot on East Broad Street. But this project is in a few years and new space is needed now.

The current visitor’s center has been housed in the 1904 courthouse since the courthouse restoration project was completed in 2010. The rest of the courthouse is used by the Coweta Estates Court – and the Estates Court needs more space. For this reason, the visitors’ center will close at the end of 2021. Hopes should soon reopen at another location – but they have to find that location first.

And so far, the research has not been going very well.

The current reception center is quite small and only has office space for one person. The ENCI will have at least two employees and probably three. The hope is to find something with enough room for the employees and a lobby big enough to serve as a reception center.

ENCI President and CEO Heather Daniel said their goal is to have the new space still downtown, where it is walkable and parking is available. She told the ENCI board on Tuesday that she had reviewed a downtown location, but it was not accessible to people with disabilities and the landlord wanted a three-year lease. She said she had looked at a few properties that were all upstairs with no elevator, and that these would not work for a visitor center.

Switch to mobile

In the meantime, they are working on plans for a mobile reception center. Mobile centers are something that many CVBs have; some are like food trucks, while others are trailers.

The mobile reception center goes to where visitors are, for example at events and popular places.

“We want to create a mobile drop-in center that travels to different places in the community,” Daniel said. “We will be able to have really interesting conversations with visitors where they are. ”

Local businesses and organizations can request that the visitor center be available for events.

“This will allow us to put boots on the ground, throughout the community, without bringing visitors to our house, in a brick and mortar building,” she said. Daniel worked with a local company that builds custom food trucks on proposals for the mobile reception center.

While the ENCI absorbs the CVB happening as the visitor center leaves the courthouse, the need for new estate court space is not new.

In 2013, the county carried out a needs assessment for various departments and reviewed it in 2020. By early 2020, the probate court was already in need of more space.

The demand for firearms licenses is still extremely high, and people already have to fill out paperwork for various permits in the lobby and hallways, according to Daniel. The reception center space will be a place where people can take care of their papers.

New partnerships and projects

ENCI is working on a few projects, including a partnership with the city of Newnan to provide guided tours of the city center by tram. Tours would use the city’s existing cart. The tour would include the 1904 courthouse and historic homes, and there may one day be other tours further afield.

Having scheduled tours will make it easier for people to visit the courthouse and the ceremonial courtroom. Right now people are walking by and asking if they can visit the courthouse; often they can’t because the courtroom is being used.

Hopes are to launch the tram tours in the spring.

Daniel also works in coordination with other organizations, including the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, the Coweta Parks and Recreation Department, and the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society.

She said she had met with the heads of the parks and recreation department on several occasions and that the historical society would be a partner in the train depot project.

The train depot project will be approximately 2,400 square feet on the ground floor, with approximately 1,200 square feet on the second floor for office space, and the total project will likely be around $ 850,000 to $ 1 million. Daniel told the ENCI board on Tuesday. “I hope we can start to move forward,” she said. “I think the next step will probably be to bring the city, county, ENCI and historical society together in one room to discuss the next steps.”

Search for information, build a brand

ENCI is working on data collection and a new branding project, and consultants from a marketing agency have spoken to the board about some of the things they are working on. Once part of the new branding is in place, a new website will be launched, Daniel said.

The branding project will help define the identity of Newnan-Coweta. ENCI is also working with a research company to learn more about people who visit our area, using data from cellphones and automobiles. This information will help ENCI understand visitors to the county and what they are looking for.

“We’ve never gotten this information before,” Daniel said, other than just talking to hotel and restaurant owners and people who come to the visitor center and sign the logbook. “This will actually give us reliable data that we can use to market,” she said.

Most current Coweta travelers are here for business reasons. And while this has helped maintain occupancy levels during the pandemic, ENCI wants to attract more travelers for tourism reasons, as well as the large number of day trippers. And find ways to encourage these day trippers to stay overnight.

“We will absolutely continue to target people who visit here now,” Daniel said, but the data “gives us the opportunity to see if there are other markets that we can continue to target”.


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