By Harold Goodridge -

Macon is a destination for a good number of people.

Chances are if you look at the calendars of some of the city’s larger hotels, you’ll see all kinds of conventions and groups scheduled to come here.

These groups, oftentimes traveling by the hundreds, might be national religious conventions, state government groups, national trade shows, or large family reunions.

In fiscal 2012, Macon hosted 110 convention groups resulting in 15,883 “room nights,” according to the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau. If you don’t think tourism is a powerful economic generator in Macon, here’s a number for you: $300.15 million. That’s how much tourists spent here in 2011. Here’s another: $8.54 million. That’s how much local tax coffers took in during the same period.

The CVB hired a research firm to do some detailed surveying of the groups about their stays here.

Some of what researchers found wasn’t surprising, but other findings in the study conducted by Mandala Research, LLC should put Macon business owners on notice that they might need to step up their game in the service arena.

What was not surprising in the study was that an overwhelming number of planners who booked groups here said the city’s central location is why they made Macon their destination. Some of the other positive attributes respondents noted about Macon were its history, it’s inexpensive and easy to get to.

The good news: Of the convention groups surveyed, there was a 90.6 percent customer satisfaction rating.

The bad news: The groups that said they were not satisfied cited poor service at area businesses.

While Atlanta and Savannah are the top two Georgia cities considered for convention groups, Bibb County certainly holds its own ranking 10th among the state’s 159 counties in 2011 for tourism, according to the United States Tourism Association.

Survey respondents were asked what came to mind when they planned their trips to Macon and “Southern hospitality” was one of the more popular answers.

Unfortunately, Macon didn’t live up to it on too many occasions.

Another negative mentioned by tour operators involved too many downtown Macon shops being closed during visits.

To be fair, the vast majority of respondents had good experiences here, but what the study found shows there’s always room for improvement.

To contact Business Editor Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.

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