Do tourism marketing efforts generate revenue in Savannah? - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Do tourism marketing efforts generate revenue in Savannah?

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

We all know Savannah's economy depends on tourists and the money they spend here, but a big part of that equation is convincing those visitors to come in the first place.

That's the task of Visit Savannah, a branch of the city's Chamber of Commerce. For the first time, we have a concrete idea of how much of a difference their efforts make.

This kind of assessment is expensive for one thing, however Visit Savannah felt it was time to find that benchmark. So it hired a firm to study how good their advertising is at bringing visitors to the city.

"We felt it was time to test our work. We know that we're putting a good product out there. This was an opportunity for us to kind of see if people are paying attention to our work and how they respond to it,” said Visit Savannah President Joseph Marinelli.

And according to the numbers, people are paying attention.

Last year, Visit Savannah spent almost a million dollars on advertising to promote leisure travel to the city. For every dollar they spent, the city saw $188 in visitor spending and every dollar spent on that marketing generated $13 in taxes.

That's a return on investment Marinelli says they're proud of.

"The most important thing we want to see is that visitor spending continues to rise, and it does. All indications are that visitor spending throughout the community - not just the historic district, but on Tybee Island, throughout Chatham County - continues to rise. That's job one at the end of the day,” Marinelli said.

In 2015, marketing efforts drew in 1.2 million visits to the Savannah area. Plus the city is still keeping up with competitors like Charleston and St. Augustine.

But what about the variables that are harder to control? This week's CNN story highlighting Savannah's crime is an example of the negative national attention some say could be the tipping point that negates all those marketing efforts.

"This story could be that point. We hope it's not. We hope that the problems that our community face don't negatively impact its economy, because I don't know how we improve as a community, I don't know how we help fix crime, I don't know how we improve education and skill sets amongst our kids, workforce, and the like... by turning down our economy. I don't see a positive correlation there,” said Tourism Leadership Council President/CEO Michael Owens.

That CNN story "Southern Charm, Deadly Streets" was featured Thursday, catapulting Savannah's crime problem onto the national and international stage. And it's an article that has gotten the attention of local law enforcement as well.

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