The city of Savannah plans to move forward this year with the development of a tourism management plan to try to balance the needs of residents and industry interests.
The city’s 2016 budget includes $20,000 to hire a consultant to facilitate the creation of a plan, while officials also pursue local and national funding support.
Visit Savannah has committed $5,000 toward the effort and has made a request to secure $10,000 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, $5,000 from the Historic Savannah Foundation, $1,500 from the Tourism Leadership Council and $5,000 from the Downtown Neighborhood Association, according to city officials.
Officials at the Tourism Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday discussed the merits of paying almost $50,000 for a consultant to develop the plan.
“We felt it was best to have a neutral person facilitate that in the community,” Bridget Lidy, director of Savannah’s Tourism Management and Ambassadorship department, told the city-appointed board.
But Michael Owens, president and CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council, questioned whether the scope of the study being considered was too limited. More may need to be spent to fund a broader examination of tourism-related issues, considering the size and complexities of the industry, Owens said.
“It just seems to me we are piecemealing it in,” he said. “Let’s start off on the right foot and let that guide the way.”
Eric Meyerhoff, a retired architect, said the idea of hiring a consultant seemed strange to him because an outside agency would probably end up learning more about the city than they could teach.
“I think Savannah as a whole keeps hiring consulting companies to no avail,” Meyerhoff said.
Another board member, David Jones, said a consultant would be able to spend more time developing the plan than city staffers.
More discussion regarding the scope of the plan will occur over the next month, and the city hopes to hire a consultant in the late summer or early fall, Lidy said.
After garnering public feedback as part of the process, city officials hope to have results of the consultant’s work presented in the second quarter of 2017, she said.