The City Council of Savannah has implemented a bold policy to restructure the local tourism industry: Small tour companies, often composed of a single employee, will be charged over a thousand dollars a year ($1020 minimum) to visit the city-maintained Bonaventure Cemetery.
This will effectively bring to a close the guided tour of the “Garden of Good and Evil.” For example, my company, Classic Car Tours of Savannah, brought 28 people to visit the beautiful park-like setting of Bonaventure this year.
Based on the city’s new fee structure, $36.42 of the $42.50 per person charge would be due to the city of Savannah, leaving $6 to pay for employee salaries, and other mandatory city fees (preservation fees, permits, taxes), commercial automobile insurance, and vehicle maintenance , etc!
A national tour company chain may decide to continue offering tours of the cemetery, if there is room to absorb an additional $6,300 expense. If they do decide to do so, I can’t imagine that the days of “ten-dollar tours” will be around much longer.
Which brings us to the question: “What are people willing to pay to visit our city?” Without a doubt, a person gets more out of their visit to Savannah when a city-licensed tour guide introduces them to our rich history. But with a city-mandated expense of an additional 40 percent for Bonaventure tours, will they continue to take tours?
Guests of the city may choose to wander the cemetery on their own, if they can find it. Am I the only one who imagines families of lost tourists, unaware of the park hours, wandering the “state” streets at night? Perhaps a large portion of the fees collected by the city are earmarked for LOTS of increased security for the park itself and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Perhaps a large portion of the money is destined for an additional national marketing campaign? When local companies are unable to afford to offer Bonaventure tours any longer, who will be paying to “advertise” this tourism resource?
And if the tour companies are no longer offering the tours, who will be paying these fees? Perhaps there is a plan to begin charging tourists to walk unescorted in a public cemetery?
As a local tour company owner, I was not included in the discussion of this new legislation, which in hindsight was probably a good idea by the City Council. I would have been unable to follow the logic that made this sound like a good idea, and I am deeply concerned about what this decision will do the local economy.
Hey, I hear New Orleans is open for business again, and really inexpensive... anybody wanna go?Jason MooreClassic Car Tours Of Savannah
Thank you for publishing the story “All for the Art,” by Linda Sickler, about the effort to raise funds for the publication of ELEMENTAL, the book of art by Luther E. Vann and poetry by me.
Mr. Vann and I both recognize it is not in every city that cultural organizations like the Telfair Museum and Bonaventture Books would attempt an initiative to produce a book of the caliber of ELEMENTAL. That they have is a major tribute to Savannah’s historical and ongoing legacy to the fine arts.
This is, after all, the same city that gave the world such stellar talents as poet Conrad Aiken, rapper and actor Big Boi, photographer Jack Leigh, author James Alan McPherson, lyricist Johnny Mercer, author Flannery O’Connor, actress Diana Scarwid, and many other gifted men and women.
At a time when war and various forms of violent discontent are so much a part of our daily consciousness, I believe it crucial to engage creative alternatives. This is not to say that ELEMENTAL is nothing more than an aesthetic indulgence to appease the sensibilities of two artists.
It is in a fact a work that speaks very much to the heart and soul of our times: to the need for global political agendas that anchor humanity in peace rather than insure its demise with war; and to the power of individuals to persist in exercising love in a world where people no longer seem certain of love’s meaning or value.
We are as grateful as we are honored for the support being provided. We hope that in time the book comes to represent more than just the achievement of one creative team, but a collective contribution towards the triumph of art and a spirit of community devoted to life over the chaos and intolerance that so often ends in life’s tragic destruction.Aberjhani author of The Bridge of Silver Wingsand Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
Editor’s Note: Bonaventture Books is indeed spelled with two “Ts”.