Hospitality and tourism industries lag behind as local economy shows signs of recovery

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah’s economy is showing strong signs of recovery, especially when it comes to employment. While some industries are doing well, others are still struggling to bounce back.

Hospitality and tourism industries are centered around close contact. It’s part of the reason they’ve been so hard hit during the pandemic.

Thanks to the weather, business is picking up for a lot of Savannah restaurants, but it’s bittersweet for many employees.

“We are very thankful for that. I’m also super thankful for employees that don’t mind risking their lives to come out and serve people,” said Andrew Williams, operations manager for Southern Cross Hospitality.

The interpersonal nature of food service and hospitality means economic recovery will be slow.

According to Georgia Southern University economics professor Mike Toma, a full rebound will depend on how fast we can achieve herd immunity, likely through vaccinations.

“That sector is still down about 4,000 workers, ” said Toma.

“Our continued recovery is going to be inhibited by the relatively low position that we have in those rankings in terms of percentage of the population that’s vaccinated,” he added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Georgia ranks dead last in the country when it comes to the percentage of people who’ve received their first dose of the vaccine.

According to Georgia Southern’s Economic Monitor report, general employment in the Savannah metro area is just one percent shy of what it was pre-pandemic.

Consumer spending is also receiving a much needed boost, thanks to stimulus relief.

“The economy is structured such that about two-thirds of all spending, two-thirds of all economic activity in the economy is driven by household and consumer spending,” said Toma.

Toma says in many ways the Hostess City has fared better than other parts of the state because it’s considered a “drive-in destination.” It is estimated that about 85% of visitors drive to get here.

The economic report shows hotel room rentals increased by 8.4% in the last quarter of 2020, but are still down 34% from this time last year.

Toma says the hospitality and airline industries are expecting to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023.

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