The Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center recently joined the Marriott Auburn Opelika Hotel & Conference Center at Grand National as two of only about a dozen Alabama hotel properties to earn a four-diamond rating with the AAA travel-service agency.

That’s good for their business, but it’s also good for a much broader picture in the Auburn-Opelika tourism industry, as more signs continue to point toward tourism as a major economic driver in this portion of east Alabama.

The Grand National golf courses, part of the highly acclaimed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, once again lured professional golf to Opelika with this year’s LGPA event held in the spring.

More than 1,300 swimmers flocked to Opelika last week for a swimming and diving championship meet sponsored by the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association, bringing with them literally thousands of parents, grandparents, siblings, coaches and other fans and participants, most of them staying in local hotels and eating at local restaurants.

One local official estimated the economic impact of that event alone to be a near $2 million boost to the economy of Lee County.

The Gougue Performing Arts Center at Auburn University is set to kick off its inaugural season with an already-sold out Aug. 23 event, and expectations are high that the center, with a stellar lineup on the books, will open to strong support from regional theater-goers.

Paired with the offerings from organizations such as the Arts Association of East Alabama, with an impressive lineup as well for performances at the Opelika Center for Performing Arts, and talk continues of having dual gateways that will draw performing-arts lovers to Lee County for extended stays.

Nearby Lake Martin continues to experience a growth boom, and with it additional tourism attractions and marketing efforts have risen.

And come September, the biggest of all local tourism attractions returns as it does annually with the kickoff of Auburn University’s home football season.

Good things are happening on the tourism front in east Alabama and specifically Lee County. Visitors are bringing their dollars to spend here, and locals are finding more reasons to keep their spending at home.

That bodes well for the economy of Lee County and all of east Alabama.

Not to mention, a positive influence from arts, entertainment, sports and recreation on the local quality of life.

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