SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Members of the local Tourism Leadership Council (TLC) met today at a monthly luncheon to discuss the state of tourism in Savannah.
According to Michael Owens, who heads the TLC, the state of tourism is positive and shows no sign of slowing down.
Joe Marinelli from Visit Savannah says 13 million visitors came here last year and hotel occupancy is up.
Marinelli says despite concerns about an incident on the 4th of July in which three people died, including the manager of a popular restaurant, marketing efforts have to continue as planned. He also said the issue has to be looked at in context.
Owens addressed concerns about crime in Savannah directly, saying that everyone needs to get involved when and where they can and hold leaders accountable.
He indicated that city council members who were elected on an anti-crime platform are apparently finding out it is a multi-faceted problem.
Owens indicated that many knew the restaurant manager who died – Scott Waldrup and says “it hurts.” Owens also said perceptions that the downtown business community was not concerned about crime until Scott died – are not fair. Owens says for some time, tourism leaders have made crime an issue and reported concerns to city leaders.
Yet both he and Marinelli said that visitors coming to Savannah are usually not checking headlines.
They believe that while local crime is upsetting and problems must be addressed for the sake of a better community – that it is not affecting visitor numbers at this point.