In Sunday’s column, I mentioned that I was going to compare employment in the leisure and hospitality sector in Savannah and a few other select cities.
There are a variety of ways of looking at the data, but I’ve opted to rely for now on the nonfarm payroll employment estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for June 2017.
Keep in mind that every metro area has employees working in leisure and hospitality, but it’s clear that the sector is more robust in places with larger numbers of tourists.
In the Atlanta metro area, the leisure and hospitality sector provides about 11.1 percent of payroll jobs. Obviously, Atlanta attracts many tourists, but the large metro area has an extremely diverse economy.
In the Jacksonville metro area, 12.5 percent of payroll jobs were in leisure and hospitality in June.
By contrast, 15.4 percent of payroll jobs in the Savannah metro (Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties) were in leisure and hospitality in June.
How does that compare with the employment situation in other destination cities to which Savannah is sometimes compared?
In the Charleston metro area, which has about twice as many jobs as the Savannah metro, leisure and hospitality comprised about 13.5 percent of total employment in June.
In the Asheville metro area, which is similar in size to Savannah, approximately 15.6 percent of jobs in June were in leisure and hospitality. The New Orleans metro area, which has more than three times as many jobs as the Savannah metro, also came in at 15.6 percent in June.
We shouldn’t draw too many conclusions here, but those are strikingly similar estimates considering the vast differences among those cities.
Given Savannah’s attractiveness as a tourist destination, we are likely to see even more visitors for the foreseeable future, especially as the remainder of the baby boom generation retires.
Even if we lure new employers to the area more effectively and even if other economic sectors continue to expand as they have in recent years, it seems likely that leisure and hospitality will employ more and more Savannahians.
Leaders in cities like Savannah, Charleston, Asheville and New Orleans will need to explore ways to improve wages and overall quality of life for the service sector employees who fuel the tourism machine.
Hint: Dramatically increasing parking costs for workers without providing better parking or transit options represents a step back, not a step forward.
Like our counterparts in other cities, we also need to be more vigilant about balancing tourism with residential quality of life. I have been encouraged by some policies proposed by the current Savannah city administration, but we will face fresh challenges over the horizon.
City Talk appears every Sunday and Tuesday. Bill Dawers can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org. Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.