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Reader: Savannah is a real city, not a 'tourist product'
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“A beautiful woman with a dirty face,” is how Lady Astor of England described Savannah.

In the 68 years since that statement, Savannah citizens have washed her face and adorned her with historic preservation, community activism, economic development, all the things that currently make Savannah a destination place.  

Millions of visitors from all over the world have flocked to her doorsteps to partake of the beauty and uniqueness only available in Savannah.

Over the last decade, I have been one among the millions, however I’ve always been treated as “the one,” the welcome is personal and the hospitality keeps me coming back, both for business conferences and family vacations.

Savannah is like no other place and can’t be confused with Atlanta, New Orleans, or Charleston.

Having breakfast near one of your many parks, watching the eclectic cast of citizens and visitors,  “play,” exercise, worship, learn, work and live together reminds me that community can’t be an afterthought. It takes everyone to create the experience I’ve come to treasure.

The beautiful woman is maturing. Aging brings out fears of the future, fears of continuing economic trauma.  Forecasts of doom and gloom cause the best of us to rethink and doubt the way forward.

Unfortunately, we can begin grasping for short-term opportunities, rather than well-conceived, long-term strategies that respect then build on the unique history being preserved.

The way forward maybe uncertain, however, unrestrained building and growth can already be observed in Savannah as in other tourist-saturated cities where you are hard pressed to find a locally owned business or any authentic cultural expression.

When I visit Savannah, I want to know I’m in Savannah, not in an over-marketed ‘tourist product’ driven by room reservation data.

Having cleaned the beautiful woman’s face, continue looking in the mirror, and be guided by your true treasure, the unique experience of historic Savannah.

Jeanette Vaughn Waddell