As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect every aspect of American life, the tourism industry remains among the most at-risk sectors of the economy. In Savannah, Georgia, however, the tourism sector is recovering at a faster rate than other cities in the southeast and around the country.
According to Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, tourism in Georgia is trending toward recovery faster than any other state in the country. Sacks credited Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, for policies making this possible. Kemp has faced a great deal of criticism for his approach to COVID-related issues like mask mandates and stay-at-home orders (Georgia has opted out of mask mandates and tried to keep lockdown orders to a minimum), but his policies do appear to be making it possible for tourism-reliant communities to continue to function, albeit at a disadvantage compared to 2019.
Savannah, Georgia, is often considered a tourist city, but there are many other facets to the economy that keep it stable and insulated from recession even during unprecedented times like the present. For example, the Port of Savannah plays a key role in the distribution of imported goods all over the country and offers a vast array of essential jobs and associated employment supporting those jobs. As a result, Savannah residents still have more stable economic ground under them than populations in other areas. In conjunction with Georgia’s business-friendly approach to policy and legislation, this underlying stability gives the city a leg up on other cities like Asheville, North Carolina.
As of July 2020, Savannah’s economy was certainly outperforming comparable competitors in other states. The result could set the stage for years of dominance in tourism in the southeast. “If we are recovering at a fast enough pace, we may be able to gain market share over others as well,” explained Michael Owens, president and CEO of the Savannah Tourism Leadership Council. “Should we retain that market share in the future, it is very possible that we will not only recover, but ‘come out’ on the other side in a better position than we were before the devastating effects of the pandemic,” he added. Owens refers to this outcome as “recovery plus”.
According to most analysts, barring a severe “second wave” of coronavirus this fall, we should start to see the beginnings of a true economic recovery on a national level in 2021 with a “full recovery” taking place sometime in late 2023. However, Savannah could precede most of the rest of the country by nearly two years if its industries hold firm, innovate when necessary, and embrace opportunities during the pandemic. History indicates the city will do this, and the local economy is going to benefit as a result.