War Not Affecting Tourism

A beautiful day brought people strolling down River Street.
A beautiful day brought people strolling down River Street.

Springtime usually means an annual boost for tourism in the Coastal Empire and the Low Country, but with American troops fighting in Iraq, some people may be shying away from taking a vacation, and if too many people stay home, that could be bad for the local economy.

At first glance, everything looks a lot like it should for springtime in the Coastal Empire. People are strolling up and down the waterfront, buying souvenirs, and brining in money for the local economy. The change jingling in from tourists suggests everything's running fairly smooth on the tourism front.

"You've got people coming in from New York, from China, Japan, from all over, so it's not really stopping people from going on vacation," said street performer Eddie Moore III.

"We were a little bit concerned about security from the airports and that, but you know, it wasn't any problem," said tourist Judy Barsic from Michigan City, Indiana.

The crowd on River Street is about what you'd expect on a beautiful day like today in Savannah. The numbers look pretty good, but are they really there? Savannah hotels say yes. Room reservations aren't any lower than other years, and in some cases, they're even up. Tourists say they think about the war, but aren't going to let it keep them from having a good time.

"People have to keep on doing what they do everyday," said Woody Bale of Tupelo, Mississippi. "We can't let them determine what we do in life. We have to develop our own lives."

Some people admit they had to get down, South regardless of what's going on in the rest of the world.

"I've been a prisoner n my house. There has been so much snow and ice that I could only get out once a week to go to the grocery store," said Ruth Ernick from chilly Dunstable, Massachusetts. "I needed to come someplace where there was sunshine and warm weather or I was going to become a crazy woman."

Now, since the war just started less than a week ago, many people couldn't have changed their plans, even if they wanted to. One thing that could start effecting tourism pretty soon, though, is the fact that airlines are beginning to cut the number of flights. This Thursday, Delta will stop some of its off-peak flights, citing a slowdown in passengers.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com