For Scott McQuade, 2015 turned out to be another banner year.
The president and CEO of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitor’s Bureau reported record numbers for tourism, the area’s leading industry, with the lodging sector growing by 12 percent from 2014.
Several months, he added, also set individual, all-time records in terms of visitors coming to the area.
“Ten of the 12 months in the year were all time records. Internally, we saw record demand through our marketing initiatives, record attendance at our welcome centers and record visitation,” McQuade said.
While the figures were enough to deem 2015 a success, there were other milestones. McQuade says one of the organization’s major moments was opening the new welcome center at 529 Beachview Drive, St. Simons Island.
“We opened the new welcome center to adequately service visitors and introduce the entire area to visitors. The positive feedback from both residents and visitors alike on the new welcome center has been overwhelming,” he said.
“To hear first-time visitors open the doors and exclaim ‘wow, this is beautiful’ has not only been rewarding but also has made a wonderful first impression.”
Another of the bureau’s biggest successes was helping to facilitate the filming of several television projects and one major motion picture.
The film, “Live By Night,” spearheaded by Hollywood heavyweight, Ben Affleck, started work in Brunswick in the spring. It proved to be an ample boost to the area, both from lodging revenue as well as drawing visitors to site of the filming in downtown Brunswick.
In addition to the cast and crew spending money at businesses, McQuade says that there were 8,000 hotel room nights over the four month period the project was in town. The film is projected to have deposited more than $3.9 million into the area.
For McQuade, landing the movie was a huge success and the culmination of countless hours of work.
“The ‘Live by Night’ film was worked on for over 2 1/2 years until we finally secured the project. Upon landing the film, we pulled our partners together to expand the film’s footprint significantly to create a much greater economic impact,” he said.
Those efforts didn’t go unnoticed. The team secured the 2015 Governor’s Tourism Champion Award at the Georgia Governor’s tourism conference for their work. It was particular point of pride for McQuade.
“The CVB is a small company that works tirelessly to benefit our community and tourism partners and I owe a lot credit to our dedicated staff. So many of the opportunities that we have secured over the last several years have come from being aggressive, persistent and working together,” he said.
But even with a solid team and record results, McQuade concedes there were some low points.
For instance, a county initiative to curb what officials deemed to be rancorous behavior by young fans lead to a dramatic decrease in the annual Georgia-Florida weekend.
“Some of our down moments were seeing a 30 percent reduction in the Georgia/Florida game weekend attendance this year. With any business and community there is always room for improvements. Recognizing and resolving the issues are key to achieving long-term success,” he said.
But going into 2016, McQuade chooses to focus on the positive and build on the momentum created in 2015. And he expects to see good things.
“We have worked on many 2015 projects that we hope continue our momentum in 2016. Among them, we have the filled many new film requests and are working on a number of new marketing initiatives for the new year,” he said.
“So far we are off to a good start having St. Simons just be named the Best U.S. Island for Family Vacation by Condé Nast Traveler. We will continue the spirit of constant improvement, partnership and hard work to continue our momentum.”