A shooting in Downtown Savannah. Words that don’t shock us all anymore.
But what about the folks who come here to enjoy the city during their vacations? Are the crimes we report on affecting the tourism industry?
23 year old Anthony Glenn Schmidt had to be taken to Memorial Medical Center late Saturday night with a non-life threatening gunshot wound.
He was one of two people taken to the hospital after a robbery attempt ended in gunfire.
The suspect in that case, 23 year old Darius Black, was tracked down by an officer and taken to jail.
“Its awful. And its just one other occasion where we’ve got crime that’s rampant in our community and we are seeing it everywhere,” said Michael Owens, President of the Tourism and Leadership Council.
Crime that hits close to home, and more importantly for tourists close to where they are visiting.
Savannah has a $2.5 billion dollars tourism business. Dozens of hotels and restaurants counting on every dollar.
So far the crime we see every day is “not” hitting home for visitors, and keeping folks from coming to the Hostess City.
“We haven’t seen a reduction in occupancy yet. that will be our first telltale sign,” explains Owens. “But we haven’t seen it yet. Are we worried about it, of course we are. But we haven’t seen it yet.”
While he is concerned about the crime spike, Tourism and Leadership Council President Michael Owens believes its not changing the money coming in. That’s because what’s “big news” for us doesn’t always register outside city limits.
“As Savannahians, we live and breathe this every single day, we read every report we find out every single terrible thing that goes on in our community” explains Owens. “We get in that mode. Our visitors by in large don’t see it through those same eyes. they are from Atlanta, they are from Jacksonville, from Charlotte, they are from different media markets that are reporting on different things.”
And with an average age of 39 for visitors, and a average downtown room price more than $100, most folks who come here aren’t even seeing the violence.
“A lot of these incidents are happening late at night. Our crowd is not a late night crowd, our average age is about 39-41 years old. High incomes,” explains Owens. “These are not nighttime party people. Most of your guests, not all but most of your guests are in their hotel room bed by about 10pm every night. They aren’t seeing a lot of this we are seeing every day.”
Owens says the one thing that would scare tourists off a big national story from Savannah.
The last time that type of crime made a dent was the false report made by several people who claimed they were attacked on Bay street.
“A national news item would affect this area suddenly,instantly and with great immediate ramifications,” said Owens. “Its something the whole city would feel I think. Days, thats what we fear.”
But without major incidents, big crime events affecting more folks from out of town, our big news won’t affect the folks who spend big money in Savannah.