Even after an 18 percent increase in hotel/motel tax collections for 2005, the tourism board is looking to boost the number of travelers destined for McDuffie County in the coming years.
A lot of those plans are centered around pulling people off Interstate 20. And the board plans on doing that the old fashioned way, with signs.
The year-old $10,300 billboard aiming travelers toward the antiques, hotels and history available off Exit 172 was recently renewed by the County Commission at the request of Forward McDuffie Director Don Powers.
Plans are also in the works for a set of signs near the exit that would alert travelers of such historical sights as the Rock House, Wrightsboro and Hickory Hill. Additional signage could also be placed throughout the community pointing visitors to those sites.
"The idea is to make sure that the people that are traveling on the interstate know about the historical sites, in particular, that are available in Thomson," Mr. Powers said. "And then once they get off, set up some signage that is nice and attractive and classy and directs people to the appropriate sites."
Interstate travelers should recognize the kind of blue signs that are currently being considered at Exit 172. Most such signs advertise restaurants and gas stations, but these would advertise tourist destinations.
"I haven't been working on that. From what I gather, though, that's pretty close," Mr. Powers said.
The board is also considering a brown sign similar to the one at Exit 183 pointing travelers to the Oliver Hardy Museum in Harlem. The proposed sign at Exit 172 would advertise Tom Watson's historic home, Hickory Hill.
The tourism board will begin discussion on the possibility of posting the signs during its meeting this morning. Mr. Powers said members of the board are aware of the need for "sprucing up" the directional signs, but no decisions have been made.
The interstate billboard that is slated to begin its second year of informing travelers about McDuffie County is scheduled to be moved from mile marker 157 to 163. According to statistics provided to the tourism board, 36,800 cars pass by the sign each day which means an estimated 65,504 people actually see it.
"Any time that you put that kind of soft advertising up, it doesn't hurt," Mr. Powers said.