It's hard to argue against the fact that celebrity chef Paula Deen accounts for a significant amount of tourism in Savannah. Her local empire of restaurants, gift shops, and bus tours are a highlight for thousands that visit annually.
So how are Savannah's tourism experts balancing this delicate situation with the overall image of the city? WSAV.com reached out to the Savannah Chamber Of Commerce (known also as VisitSavannah) - the group declined to comment. Leaders with the local tourism council have yet to make a statement.
In the meantime, social media continues to buzz with comments from supporters and disillusioned fans. WSAV owns SavannahStPats.com and posted the question to its online audience: "Will this scandal change your plans when you visit our city?" The answer? An overwhelming 'No'.
Cathy writes "Not at all. I never visited her restaurant when in town anyway. Lots of other wonderful places to eat in Savannah! Savannah was a great place to visit before Paula Deen and will remain so with her or without her!"
Cindy adds: "As long as I am breathing...nothing and no one will ever prevent me from visiting the most beautiful and special place on earth. Savannah has been around a long time and true lovers of Savannah will always continue to visit!"
Robin: "If I were coming to Savannah...I wouldn't change my plans because of this. I think it is being blown out of proportion...as usual."
A strong majority of comments reflect the same message: Paula Deen's situation will not greatly affect travel to Savannah. Read more of the comments for yourself here.
On the ground, some operators of local tour enterprises say they are concerned about the possible shift in business because of the scandal. In some cases, guides offer tours custom tailored to the Paula Deen experience in Savannah.
Have a different point of view? Share your comments below, or tweet us @WSAV
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