Crime impacting late night tourism? - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Crime impacting late night tourism?


Could Savannah’s crime problem be whittling away at the city’s tourism industry?

Some tour companies are worried that a souring reputation could start to convince tourists and their money to go somewhere else.

Many tours in Savannah, like the Hearse Ghost Tours, often run late at night. And many tours, like the hearse tour, drop people off at their hotels after the tour is completed.

But walking tours present a unique challenge.

"I do tell them if they're walking back to their hotels or back to their cars, if it's a few blocks away, I tell them on certain roads only. On lighted streets where there's more traffic on that road, avoid certain areas of town of course, because I am afraid for their safety on their way back to the hotels,” said Chris Allen, owner of Haunted Savannah Tours.

Allen recalled one family cancelling a tour last year after they witnessed an armed robbery downtown. And he's worried that kind of crime may eventually run more tourist off.

"If they don't feel safe in Savannah, then how are we going to even conduct business here at all? It's almost impossible to. You can't do a tour business without tourists,” said Allen.

Despite the publicity some crimes are getting, Savannah's crime problem isn't really concentrated in the downtown area.

In 2007, there were around 350 violent crime incidents in downtown Savannah. That number decreased to a little over 200 incidents in 2014. 

While the numbers seem to be trending downward, police said other areas of Savannah are seeing crime they've never experienced before. And while some locals may fear crime is driving tourists away, some visitors WTOC spoke with Thursday said they're not deterred.

"I'm sure there are some areas, and I think that's the case with most cities, to be honest. But certainly in the downtown tourists areas, not got that impression at all. Feels pretty safe," said Jean Edwards, visiting from England.

"No, there's a lot of other cities we probably would not have gone to, but Savannah, Georgia wasn't one of them,” said Alan Osterhout, visiting from Canada.

One tour guide is equally as optimistic. While he is concerned about business, he said Savannah is bigger than its crime.

"We should not go into panic mode. This is a small city that's got a huge reputation that's positive and worth protecting,” said Phil Sellers, owner of Old City Walks. 

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