Tourism Lawsuit Leaves Town Misguided

  • Sumo
Lafayette Square, Savannah, GA by flickr user Chris Yates, licensed by Creative Commons

Hip to be square

Tour guides in vacation destinations may have to begin passing certifications to entertain tourists. One group in Savannah GA, headed by a woman named Michelle Freenor, has filed a lawsuit against the city itself over the certain registration laws. Michelle and 3 others (including her husband) have led walking tours around the historic town for years, before the word spread of a new ordinance them to become “certified tour guides”, passing medical and academic tests. The city stands firm behind the idea that registration can only help, not hinder the tourism industry in Savannah. The group is backed by non-profit law firm, with Freenor now at the head of a movement that has hit many popular destinations for tourists, including New York City, Washington D.C., and New Orleans.

Freenor contends that, as a knowledgeable resident of the area, it is unnecessary to become certified, saying “You shouldn’t have to pass a test to be able to tell people where the best ice cream in Savannah is.” The nonprofit firm, Institute for Justice, claims that the tour guides’ First Amendment rights are being brought into question. The government in Savannah wants to ensure that the tourism industry, which brings in roughly $2.2 billion, has some form of legislation. There are currently lawsuits filed in Savannah and New Orleans, both high-traffic areas for tourists in the months of March-November. The town plans to receive a survey in the upcoming months to gain a feel of how the citizens of Savannah really feel about the tourism industry, and will likely use this data as arguments for or against.

In truth, Savannah is a beautiful little town; it’s also the oldest city in Georgia, historically. Built right along the river that leads into the Atlantic Ocean, downtown Savannah features many National Historic Landmarks. You can walk the cobblestone streets and think back to the dawn of the United States, when Savannah was used as a port city during the Revolution in 1776 and also the Civil War. To think that a town like this, with so much history and natural beauty, is up in arms over the tourism industry seems a little far-fetched. However, with so much money and economic growth generated by visitors to the area, some light registration may not be such a terrible thing.