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OWENS: How do you define tourism?

  • Guillermo Montes with Rosie Soto at Comfort Suites. (Special to the Savannah Morning News)

What does tourism mean to you?

For some, it means a lucrative career or an entry-level job that provides transferable skills to other fields. For others, it means a vacation from work or the next trip for which they’re saving.

Tourism is a ubiquitous term. So, it can really mean all of those things and so much more. Let me suggest some of the many facets of tourism that you may not yet have considered.

Tourism is your favorite restaurant.

Everyone has their favorite place to eat, and in Savannah our offerings of great places to eat is growing. That’s why people are stepping out in faith to open more restaurants that feed us, as well as the guests to our city.

Jason Restivo is tourism.

He’s been working for months to open The Atlantic, a restaurant in the Starland District that sources local food, believes in fresh, healthy dining and hires local people. As a small business owner, he has hurdles like most, but he’s working to overcome those so that he can hopefully be your new favorite restaurant.

Tourism is transportation.

If you’re downtown and you get stuck behind a trolley, think about what that trolley represents. That trolley means 25 cars are not driving through our historic downtown, clogging our pathways where most commerce in Chatham County takes place. In effect, transportation comes in many forms.

Hollis Johnson is tourism.

He owns Above and Beyond Limousine Services. He not only provides the limo for your daughter’s wedding, he provides more than 20 jobs. As a small business owner, he also works hard to provide great hospitality to everyone who rides in his vehicles.

Tourism is that fun thing to do.

Entertainment comes in many forms—movies, festival, concerts. In Savannah, there’s something for everyone, even if you like your dinner served up with a side of improv mystery theatre.

Lori Collins is tourism.

She owns Savannah Coffee Roasters, and every Friday they have a show with Odd Lot that features a 3-course meal, and a completely improvised murder mystery. She’s a small business owner who ships her Savannah-roasted coffee all over the world.

Tourism is your favorite place to shop.

From the malls to the outlets or boutiques to Broughton Street, shopping is something we all enjoy. And so do our visitors.

Ruel Joyner is tourism.

You may not think that the owner of 24e, an upscale furniture store on Broughton Street would be a tourism-related business, but it is. He says that most of his business involves people who stop by the store because they’re drawn in by the beautiful window displays, and they end up buying a piece of furniture that’s shipped to their home.

Tourism is a place to stay.

We have a vibrant lodging property subsect of the tourism community that has also seen growth. From vacation rentals to upscale hotels, Savannah has a myriad of unique opportunities for places to stay.

Teresa Jacobson is tourism.

She owns Azalea Inn and Villas where they offer the guest that warm Savannah hospitality. Teresa knows that even though the tourism community is made up of small businesses, it’s stronger when we work together.

Tourism is your career.

No other industry provides the kind of advancement opportunities like tourism jobs.

Guillermo Montes is tourism.

He started working in hospitality career as a houseman, cleaning hotel lobbies. He worked hard. His supervisors noticed his work ethic. Two years later, he is working as Assistant General Manager at one of the busiest downtown hotels.

With 26,000 people who make up this tourism community, there are a multitude of opportunities—for those who are just starting out, for those who want more, for those who have a challenging background or those who love meeting new people.

And, even if you’re not a part of tourism, we, as a community, benefit from those who are. The small business owners that live and work here, the people who bring their money here and the taxes that each of those businesses pay– this is all part of the many facets of our tourism community.


Michael Owens is president/CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council, the largest non-profit trade organization that supports and represents the tourism community. Contact Owens or by calling 912-232-1223.