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Best-selling author touts community involvement, uniqueness during Savannah tour

Subheadline: 
Tourism expert praises city

  • Elizabeth Becker
  • Savannah Morning News - New York Times journalist and best-selling author, Elizabeth Becker, speaks to the Tourism Advisory Committee on Tuesday during their monthly meeting. Becker will speak at the Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting tonight, wrapping up her three-day tour of Savannah.

A New York Times writer praised Savannah on Tuesday for its efforts to work together on tourism issues including the debate over allowing cruise ships and the adoption of short-term vacation rental regulations, which she said are some of the best in the United States.

“I’m very impressed with the information I got about what you’ve already accomplished,” Elizabeth Becker told the Tourism Advisory Committee and members of the public. Becker is the best-selling author of “Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Tourism and Travel.”

“When you’re working in the tourism industry, it can be very hard,” she said. “There’s some very heavy lifting that is very difficult, but you should understand that you’ve done a couple of really amazing things already.”

In her book, Becker explores how tourism, which was once only a hobby, has grown into an industry that contributes $7 trillion to the world’s economy each year. While in Savannah, Becker discussed the effects of tourism and what Savannah can do to improve the relationship between the industry, the community and its residents.

“Savannah is going in ahead of the game,” she said urging those in the industry to think about the message and image they hope to convey through tourism.

“The tour guides who actually know the history, who know the places, it leads to a real image of who you are ... You are creating an image and do you want it to be bunch of people drinking a lot drinks or do you want it to be serious?

“You don’t want that river cruise because it’s all a bunch of silly jokes and lots of drinks. You want that cruise because it’s discussing history. You are the face of what people think of Savannah, Georgia, and the United States.”

After taking a series of questions from audience members, Becker said that while each community differs on what solutions work when balancing a large tourism industry and everyday life, it’s important to keep an ongoing, open discussion but also remember why people visit the places they do.

“It’s tedious, and there’s a lot of community input. The answer keeps changing... It makes for countries that are unique,” she said. “People go to France to spend two weeks pretending they’re French. They do not go to France so that they can go to the Hyatt and hang out.”

Tuesday’s discussion at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, also served as the monthly advisory council meeting and was day two of Becker’s three-day Savannah tour hosted by Emergent Savannah in partnership with the city of Savannah and the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

Becker’s last stop is tonight at the Coastal Georgia Center where she’ll speak during the Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

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About Elizabeth Becker

Elizabeth Becker began her career as a war reporter in Cambodia in 1972. She later served as the Senior Foreign Editor at National Public Radio where she directed all foreign coverage and expanded coverage in Asia and Africa.

She joined the New York Times in 1995 where she worked until 2005 covering the Pentagon, homeland security, international economics and agriculture.

For more information, go to www.elizabethbecker.com.

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