Editorial: A toast to Savannah’s hospitality industry

Savannah’s moss-draped live oaks, award-winning restaurants, antebellum architecture and centuries of history attract more than 14 million visitors annually, generating significant revenue for the Coastal Empire.

According to the latest Visit Savannah Visitor Study, compiled by Longwoods International, visitors spent $2.91 billion in 2017, which was up four percent over 2016 spending. The overall numbers of visitors set a new record, increasing from 13.9 million to 14.1 million between 2016 and 2017.

Overnight visitors, who stayed an average of 2.4 days, spent the bulk of their money on lodging, contributing $1 billion to accommodations, followed by food and beverage with $535 million and retail with $314 million. On average, day trippers spent $226 on food and beverages, $175 in the retail sector and $98 on recreation experiences. Shopping remains the most popular activity with visitors, with 41 percent of people buying Savannah goods to take home.

Visit Savannah President Joseph Marinelli, who oversees a wide range of marketing and public relations campaigns designed to attract visitors, has explained that the organization’s overall strategy is to increase visitor spending, not just the overall number of tourists.

“It’s not necessarily more, more, more visitors, but it’s increased spending, which is where our focus has been for the last few years,” he said.

Marinelli has attributed the overall growth in visitor spending and increase in demand to new additions to the local market, including restaurants and retail offerings.

“I think it’s across the board,” he said. “That all contributed to the increase spending in the community, which at the end of the day is also what keeps people working. Businesses are making money and they have the ability to add staff. It keeps growing, and we’re really pleased with that.”

Ultimately, the hospitality industry’s front-line workers are the “face” of Savannah, providing incredible guest experiences, day after day, month after month, year after year.

Kudos to the Savannah Tourism Leadership Council for celebrating outstanding members of our local hospitality industry at the Tourism Awards & Scholarship Dinner. We hope these exceptional individuals will continue to serve as the heart and soul of the Hostess City for many years to come.

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