For Immediate Release
Date: March 24, 2017
Tourism is currently one of the largest industries in Savannah. It provides 26,000+ jobs, $2.5 billion in visitor spending and economic opportunities for residents, and highlights to the world the positive attributes of what makes our community so unique. Yet, Savannah must remain vigilant that the growing number of visitors (currently at 13.7 million) does not detract from the community’s authenticity or negatively impact the overall quality of life of historic district residents. As the numbers continue to increase, careful planning and management are necessary—especially looking into the future.
In late 2016, the City engaged The EXPERIENCE Institute® (TEI) to develop a tourism management plan with the goal of balancing resident needs with industry interests, while also maintaining Savannah’s prominence as a global visitor destination. It is also important to recognize the primary venue for visitors is the one-square mile National Landmark Historic District which must be managed properly to prevent irrevocable damage.
This project builds on several items initiated in 2015 such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Living with Success Revised: Summit on Heritage Tourism in our Nation’s Most Beloved Historic Cities report which included Savannah. Additionally, two separate surveys—one for residents and the other tourism—were conducted by the University of South Carolina Tourism Institute to gather feedback on opportunities and challenges with tourism in this community. Elizabeth Becker—New York Times journalist and author of Overbooked: The Global Business of Travel and Tourism—visited Savannah and raised the quality of discussion and involvement related to current and future trends in the industry as well as the need for community protections.
From Monday, March 27 through Thursday, March 30, TEI’s founder, Mickey Schaefer, and lead consultant, Susan Iris, will be holding ‘Phase One - Discovery Sessions’ with different groups in the community to obtain more information about tourism-related issues. The TEI team believes that through their custom-built approach, conversations will take place—igniting insights that lead to a plan that is fully representative of perspectives, priorities and the collective vision of our most important audiences. The consultant team will also bring their contacts from their global network and best practices from 100+ communities in which they have worked. The timeline for finalizing the plan is late summer.
The Tourism Management Plan (TMP) represents a unique partnership with the Downtown Neighborhood Association, Visit Savannah and Historic Savannah Foundation who each contributed $5,000 while the Tourism Leadership Council provided $1,500. The City provided $16,900 to the project and secured a $10,000 competitive grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation.
For more information contact Marija Bumgarner, City of Savannah Tourism Coordinator, at 912-525-1500.