NOW in its fifth year, the Savannah Food and Wine Fest has quickly become one of the premiere events on the Savannah calendar, both for locals and for the majority of its attendees who are from out of town.
The success is all the more remarkable in that the event—happening Nov. 7-12— comes in a month which was once considered slow for tourism.
“One of the main reasons our event has been so successful and has helped generate so much economic impact and lift during what was once considered an off-peak time is that our attendees like to go out and eat, drink and shop,” says Food and Wine Fest Director Jan Gourley. “Our guests are real foodie types who want to try everything in town!”
Gourley says that while the Festival has had great success tapping into regional drive markets, “now we’re targeting northeast markets served by direct flights. We’ve seen that really pay off too.”
Gourley says roughly 60 percent of total attendees are from out of the market, with a higher proportion of tourists on Saturday for the big Taste of Savannah keynote event at the Georgia State Railroad Museum.
While there is a huge menu of events to choose from (see what we did there), the signature events are Friday’s River Street Stroll, Saturday’s Taste of Savannah, and of course Wednesday’s Celebrity Chef dinner at the Westin with a host of James Beard Award winners such as Sean Brock, whose newest adventure, Husk Savannah, is set to open soon.
“Now we have a model to use with the Railroad Museum. The first few years we had Taste of Savannah in Ellis Square, but that became difficult because we couldn’t tell who had bought a ticket and who sort of just walked up,” says Gourley.
Gourley says the Festival is employing a “pre-check-in” strategy to help avoid lengthy queue-ups at the opening of key events.
“If you don’t mind milling around for awhile before it starts, checking in early will help keep you out of those long lines.”