Visit Savannah President Joseph Marinelli likes to say the coastal Georgia destination has not changed much since James Oglethorpe settled there in 1733. But in a twist worthy of Dickens, Marinelli also says Savannah is constantly changing.
The idea behind this tale of two cities is simple. Savannah remains a charming Southern destination known for its hospitality—so much so that it’s actively seeking larger groups to experience it. Hence, Savannah continues to evolve to meet modern needs.
“It’s perfect for small and midsize citywide conventions,” says Marinelli, noting the sweet spot is for groups using between 750 and 1,100 rooms. RewardExpert agrees, naming Savannah the No. 1 midsize city in the South Atlantic to host business meetings, citing the city’s affordability.
The National Agricultural Aviation Association, better known as crop dusters, has made Savannah International Trade & Convention Center a regular landing spot. More than 1,600 attendees from 34 states and eight countries touched down in Savannah in 2017, and the annual convention is already booked for December 2020.
On the Map
While Oglethorpe may have first discovered Savannah, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” put the city on the map. Marinelli cringes at the mere thought of the movie—except for the fact it was filmed there—but happily welcomes all the business the best-selling book and movie have generated.
“Savannah is considered a classic bucket list-type city,” he boasts. Marinelli is not wrong—and there should only be a greater influx of visitors coming soon.
Perry Lane Hotel, a luxurious boutique property, debuted this spring. Marinelli says the opening marks Savannah’s entry into the five-star market. But the big fish lands early next year in the form of the 420-room JW Marriott at Plant Riverside District. The hotel, part of an urban renewal project along the Savannah River, will include a dozen dining options. Speaking of dining, did we mention Husk Savannah, part of Southern superstar chef Sean Brock’s empire, debuted in December 2017?
The American Prohibition Museum and Savannah African Art Museum are among the new attractions reflecting the city’s history.
“Savannah is exploding with new product,” says Marinelli.
Further accentuating Savannah’s growth, the CVB is now in the midst of promoting its neighborhoods outside the famed historic district. The Victorian, Starland and Moon River districts are experiencing an influx of boutique shops and coffeehouses Marinelli hopes will keep attendees in town for an extra day.
Savannah’s festive feel applies to local events as well as conventions. Vice President Mike Pence was among the guests at the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration this year. Other annual highlights included the Savannah Book Festival in February and Savannah Music Festival in spring.