Southeastern Coastal Destination Bounces Back from COVID Shutdowns
The southeast, like many parts of the country, has taken a hard hit as COVID-19 has spread throughout the country, accompanied by lockdowns and mask mandates.
Savannah, Georgia, however, has shown just how determined, local businesses can and should play a huge role in the economic bounce-back. While many areas of the country continued to flounder as governors extended stay-at-home orders into the summer months, Savannah aimed for partial reopening during Mother’s Day last year. Businesses brought employees back, ordered supplies, retrained staff using new protocols, and generally got ready for whatever the summer would bring.
“Opening a business doesn’t happen overnight. There are multiple steps to it, and we are seeing it happen in hopes of catching some of the Mother’s Day opportunities,” Visit Savannah president Joseph Marinelli said at the time. Many local businesses treated the May weekend as a test run for Memorial Day weekend, when many beachside cities expected to be flooded with guests. The Savannah economy as a whole benefited from this preparation.
By October 2020, Georgians reported being willing to travel between 200 and 300 miles for a vacation – sometimes even just for the weekend. With residents of nearby states expressing similar willingness, the state’s Economic Development Tourism Division began targeting out-of-state tourists and well as in-state residents, opening up welcome centers previously closed early in the pandemic and pointing visitors toward Georgia attractions – all while keeping public health and safety top of mind, of course!
Marinelli and Visit Savannah kept the city at the forefront of tourists’ minds by creating aspirational messaging inside and outside of the state to remind people what would be available for them to do once travel restrictions eased. “When people in June started traveling again, those images of Savannah were things they remembered,” he said. Weekend visitation picked up, a new entertainment venue on the Savannah River debuted high-end shops and restaurants, and local real estate valued climbed as more and more visitors began considering purchasing vacation homes in the area or making the southeastern coast their new home.
Marinelli predicts that the winter months in Savannah will likely be attractive for tourists who could not afford to visit during the height of the season. He said tourists are generally becoming “more confident about traveling,” which should mean visits from people missing the sunshine and sand in their home states. “We have very affordable…rates for people that want to come,” he said.
For real estate investors hoping to place capital in the Savannah market before things get too hot to handle, winter is the time to act. According to ATTOM Data Solutions, Savannah’s third-quarter home-flipping profits in the area were already skyrocketing, hitting 143.6 percent year-over-year at the end of September 2020. Access to attractive, single-family residential homes is getting increasingly difficult, making it particularly important that investors develop relationships and network contacts within the Savannah area since real estate investors and speculators are already flooding the market as other regions begin to fall behind.