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Owens: Thanks must go to Savannah’s strong tourism community

As we prepare to return from the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to take some time to reflect and be thankful for all that we have.

After the impact of Tropical Storm Hermine and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Tropical Storm Irma caused less damage than last year’s storms. Within days, Savannah was open for business once again, and guests returned to the city, and we are fortunate that we as a community were poised for a quick recovery.

Economic impacts

As the second largest economic driver in Savannah, tourism has poured into our community opportunities big and small.

While it may be inconvenient to wait behind a trolley, you are seeing the faces of people who have opted not to drive their cars around the historic districts. In fact, each trolley represents 20 cars that are not on the road, and many people who have chosen to spend their money here.

I’m thankful for the many special events that make our city vibrant and full of life. These same events have multimillion dollar economic impacts on our community, from residents dining in restaurants to overnight guests staying in hotel rooms.

Together, all these scenarios create a $2.8 billion industry upon which tens of thousands of our neighbors rely.

Career opportunities

Tourism is a career path that is full of myriad opportunities not just for a privileged few, but for the community as a whole. Tourism employs more than 27,000 people in the Savannah area. These are jobs with opportunity for advancement for anyone willing to work.

I’m thankful for the people who work hard to make our city a world-class destination: from the ones on the frontlines who work the front desk overnight, to those who rise early to cook breakfast. I’m thankful for those who work to market our city to people around the globe, and for the small business owner who creates a unique product. With all these people making Savannah a hospitable place, it’s no wonder Savannah is as popular as ever.

Community engagement

The growth of tourism in Savannah has created an impact that was unprecedented 20 years ago. Every city experiences growing pains from time to time, and Savannah is no exception.

Nevertheless, I’m thankful to live in a community that cares so much about its future. Though there are many voices with differing opinions, we all want the same thing: a Savannah where we can all thrive. I’m thankful for all the people who want to put forth the effort to create a better city for everyone.

I’m also thankful to those who have chosen to be involved in governing on the city and county levels. While every decision may not be popular, they are committed to the people they represent, and are essential to the democracy in which we live.

As you can see, we have a lot for which to be thankful. I could keep going, and I encourage you to do the same.

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

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