Hospitality is an $11 billion business in metro Atlanta and leaders are trying to grow visitation and convention attendance. Adding more international tourists will help fill restaurants, hotel rooms and stores.
Charlie Olentine, executive vice president of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, one of metro Atlanta's biggest convention, said one-fourth of the group's 20,000 convention attendees comes from abroad and that efforts to attract more could be a boon for the city.
"Many people from outside the U.S. will come here to shop," he said. "They come earlier or stay a day later because they can buy things here cheaper than they can at home."
Cele Fogarty, vice president of event services for SmithBucklin, said the global nature of business demands that cities move beyond national borders. Medical education, for instance, knows no boundaries and what is shared here has universal interest.
"If you're not reaching out globally, you're missing out," she said.
Tim Mescon, economist and president of Columbus State University, called the ACVB's familiarization focus an exceptional opportunity that needs to be aggressively pursued. The area is the southeast hub for foreign consulates, global business like Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines and has research universities known around the world.
The changes at Hartsfield will make all of that more attractive.
"The true go-forward opportunity for Atlanta's convention business is to compete more aggressively on a global scale," he said.