Tourism Forecast

This is the time of year everyone gets contemplative about the coming year. Predictions are made. Forecasts are set.
For tourism, we’re hearing that 2014 will be a banner year—growth like we haven’t seen since the recession.
Certainly, tourism rebounded from the recession better than most markets.
However, in my work with tourism businesses in Savannah, I know there are still some struggling to recover from the economic downturn.
Yet, I believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I believe we will see more of that light in 2014.
Want to know what goes into making my guess? Simple. I’m looking at the factors that go into Savannah’s great tourism product.
The first is the weather—and that’s a hard one to believe this week. Our tropical climate attracts people near and far. In fact, the industries busiest seasons happen when the weather is at its best, spring and fall.
More people drive from Atlanta to Savannah than any other nearby city, and we’ve noticed that when the weather is bad in Atlanta, we see an uptick in visitors.
The next factor is the demand for our city. We have more than 12 million guests choose Savannah as their vacation destination. Visit Savannah, an organization charged with marketing our city to the world, does a great job of selling our city. Additionally, those businesses who have been marketing themselves to the world have built the buzz.
And we have another indicator of that demand for our city, Trip Advisor.
The social review site serves as a travel almanac for the millions who decide to come here. They are basing their travel decisions on what people say about the individual businesses.
Overwhelmingly, the reviews are positive. That’s a direct result of all those who serve in tourism. It’s their daily commitment to customer service and southern hospitality. They are responsible for the continued demand.
Another aspect of our tourism product is why people come to Savannah. For a long time, we’ve attracted history buffs who want to celebrate our rich history. We’ve certainly done a good job of preserving it. Alternatively, I believe there will be a new drive in 2014.
People will travel to Savannah looking for an experience. We will start to move away from the typical hotel/restaurant activities and start to see more people who want to take a boat ride on a tall ship as it docks in our harbor or kayak along the ocean’s coast. Or, they will want to experience the music during the Savannah Music Festival.
During the Savannah Food & Wine Festival, we saw half of all participants traveled to Savannah primarily to experience the amazing food and wine at the festival’s 52 events.
Finally, the last factor that goes into the success of our industry is the breadth of experiences we offer.
In terms of lodging, we have high-end hotels, boutiques, bed and breakfasts, mid-market motels, and house and room rentals from individual owners.
In terms of restaurants, we have upscale fine dining to casual comfort food. In our attractions, guests experience everything from historical homes to trendy taverns.
With so much going on, it’s easy to see how the tourism forecast is showing a strong chance of continued success. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014