Tourism leaders say coronavirus fear not impacting Savannah St. Patrick’s Day

Local Leaders not downplaying the danger of the virus itself, but rather highlighting their preparedness.
Coronavirus St. Patrick's Day Impact
Coronavirus St. Patrick's Day Impact(Sam Bauman WTOC)
Updated: Mar. 2, 2020 at 4:31 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - St. Patrick’s Day brings visitors from all over the world to Savannah.

But if the coronavirus continues to spread, does that spell bad news for local businesses?

According to Tourism Leadership Council CEO and President Michael Owen, that’s not that case.

“Fear about it? No. It’s something we take seriously as we would any infection but, you know, this happens to us a couple times a year,” said Owens. He was quick to dispel any rumors about the coronavirus impacting St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah.

Not downplaying the danger of the virus itself, but rather highlighting the industry’s preparedness.

“People get sick. They have the flu, they have a sinus infection. It’s something that we’re constantly, constantly training on,” Owens says.

While visitors may notice higher attention to cleanliness, Owens says that’s not a bad thing.

“You’ll probably see a little more wipe down than you ever have. That’s a great precaution to take, something we should be doing anyway.”

Similar to Owens and the Tourism Leadership Council, Visit Savannah is well aware of the coronavirus.

“So, we’re paying very close attention to it like anyone else but we’re also not pushing any panic buttons yet,” said Visit Savannah President Joseph Marinelli.

Keeping an especially close eye on the bookings at Savannah hotels during St. Patrick’s Day.

“So far, no, I’m not getting any calls of major cancellations," said Marinelli, "it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, but I’d be one of the first to know that.”

If the virus does eventually spread into Georgia, Marinelli says they’re prepared to keep business flowing in Savannah.

“We’ve already begun to have discussions internally if we’ve got to shift our strategies, we’re prepared to do that. We have to be nimble and we have to be prepared to shift strategies quickly and we’re ready to do that.”

Explaining if air travel to Savannah dies down they will switch their focus to driving centered campaigns.

But as for now...

“We’re looking forward to having a great St. Patrick’s Day as per usual," says Owens, "and this community is getting ready to turn green.”

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