Visitors Agree That Savannah is ‘Anything But Ordinary’
As Chicago-area residents walked the sun-splashed streets of the Taste of Randolph festival, many stopped in their tracks when they saw a lush, flower-filled attraction filled with people enjoying each other’s company.
“What is this?” they asked over and over. At first glance, some thought it was a new southern-themed restaurant opening in an area famous for cutting-edge dining. A few guessed that a luxury flower shop was coming to the neighborhood.
Many of Savannah’s community leaders were on hand to answer: we’re here from Savannah, Georgia! Savannah City Manager Jay Melder talked to potential visitors about the non-stop flights from both of Chicago’s airports, while Chatham County Commission Chair Chester Ellis joined County Manager Michael Kaigler to personally welcome people waiting in line to get into our activation area. In the end, so many people couldn’t believe a whole city had come to make new friends in their community.
Savannah Area Chamber and Visit Savannah board members were more than willing to stand in the sun for hours talking up our city – sometimes to festivalgoers that were very familiar with our destination, and to others who couldn’t pick us out on a map.
Regardless of the level of their experience and knowledge of Savannah, the main thing we heard over and over was appreciation for being in Chicago in person to ask for their business. Visit Savannah champions the tag line “Anything But Ordinary” and no one would disagree after seeing us at the Taste of Randolph. And our 2022 travel statistics show this mindset is working.
In May, Visit Savannah released a report from Longwoods International showing that Savannah played host to 9.7 million overnight person-trips and more than $4.4 billion in total visitor spending in 2022. Savannah's growth can be attributed to several factors including pent-up travel demand, increased air service (27.5 percent increase in air arrivals versus 2021), and expanded tourism offerings.
Increased lodging demand (up 9.2 percent for hotels and 3.3 percent for short-term rentals over 2021) generated $44.5 million in bed tax collections in 2022 (up 21.6 percent over 2021). Most importantly, Savannah's hospitality-related jobs grew 9.5 percent compared to 2021, with tourism employing more than 27,000 people in the Savannah area.
One look around the downtown area and it's hard to miss all the cranes representing hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in both new and remodeled lodging projects.
Recognizing the importance of this industry to our area’s success, our local and state elected leaders partnered with private sector interests to finally pass an increase in the hotel-motel tax, which will pump tens of millions into needed projects around the city. Redevelopment of the River Street waterfront, expansion of the Tide to Town trail network and renovation of the historic Waterworks building near Enmarket Arena are just the highlights of the investments that will be made to benefit both residents and visitors.
The health of Savannah’s visitor economy is critical to the region’s success. With all this momentum, it's easy to see how Savannah is “Anything But Ordinary.”
President & CEO
Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce