Key Speakers

The Honorable Buddy Carter

U.S. Representative (GA-01)

Joe Marinelli

President & CEO, Visit Savannah

Mark Jaronski

CMO, Georgia Department of Economic Development

Key Topics

  • Increase H-2B guest worker visas which would provide significant workforce relief in Savannah
  • Improve our air travel system
  • Address processing inefficiencies and unnecessary delays for visas and passports
  • Improve outdated technology and staffing shortages at TSA and CBP

Discussion Summary

U.S. Travel’s own Geoff Freeman (President and CEO) and Tori Barnes (EVP, Public Affairs and Policy) joined Joe Marinelli, President and CEO of Visit Savannah and Mark Jaronski, Chief Marketing Officer for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, alongside a dozen of Savannah’s business and travel leaders, where they underscored the industry’s role in providing vital tax revenue, creating jobs and bolstering local businesses to Savannah and the state of Georgia—while simultaneously urging action on the industry’s most pressing priorities.

The bottom line: Rep. Carter’s conversation with U.S. Travel and Savannah’s local leaders proved that he understands the importance of action in Congress to help the industry address current challenges. “Tourism is a big part of our economy, always has been…supports many businesses. It’s a $37 billion industry in Georgia…and the tax revenue supports important projects across the state.”


  • Tori Barnes, U.S. Travel Association
  • Todd Costin, Hyatt Regency Savannah
  • Terry Enoch, Savannah Chatham County
  • Carey Ferrara, Gaslight Group
  • Geoff Freeman, U.S. Travel Association
  • Kay Heritage,  Big Bon Foods
  • Mark Jaronski, Georgia Department of Economic Development
  • Jay Markwalter, Georgia Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus
  • Joe Marinelli, Visit Savannah
  • Michael Owens, Tourism Leadership Council
  • Kal Patel, Image Hotels
  • Gaye Reese, Community United
  • Sally Roth, Big Bon Bodega

Attendee Testimonial

“The visa program is critical, we need to keep the engine going. We’ve employed every American within range. We must find more people, or our progress will go backwards”

– Michael Owens, Tourism Leadership Council

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Help our Travel Action Network spread the word and educate leaders about critical travel industry priorities.