Savannah DNA hosts meeting to discuss tourism management plan

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The City of Savannah is working to find a balance when it comes to integrating a leading industry into the lives and routines of downtown residents, and that's tourism.

A consultant group has been hired to create a tourism management plan and they're meeting with a number of community groups for their opinions.

DNA members made it clear during the feedback session with The Experience Institute that preservation of the quality of life and Savannah's unique qualities are top priorities.

The Experience Institute's founder challenged DNA members to let emotion and bias take a back seat to intellect as the process to form the tourism management plan moves along, cautioning what could happen if they don't.

"I can tell you, and I get sad when I think about this, if you don't get rid of this, you're going to lose a lot," said TEI founder Mickey Schaefer.

Schaefer was talking about contention over cooperation, and city staff on hand admits the former is taking a front seat.

"There's a lot of contention within the community right now about tourism, growth and development, and preserving and protecting the neighborhood as well as preserving and protecting our National Landmark Historic District," said Bridget Lidy, the director of Tourism Management and Ambassadorship for the City of Savannah.

Some residents expressed concern over the frequency and volume of tour buses in the district. Others commented on how hard it is now with all the city's visitors to even have lunch downtown.

On a different track, one downtown resident says he thinks data-driven feedback is more valuable than personal experience when it comes to creating a tourism management plan.

"I think it's important to understand when we're having these conversations that everybody has their biases. So, we have to be sure that we have all the correct sources of data, and let the data tell its story," said downtown resident James Hall.

Schaefer did say after the presentation that she is encouraged after talking to a couple dozen community leaders and city officials, and believes overall cooperation is a priority when it comes to one of the city's most important and lucrative industries.

If all stays on schedule, the tourism management plan will be in place this fall.

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