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'Unique travel experiences': S.C. tourism sets record

'Unique travel experiences': S.C. tourism sets record

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Santee State Park -- pier

Ten cabins at Santee State Park sit directly over the water on piers where lodgers can fish directly from their bedroom window if they chose. State parks plan to offer a new scavenger hunt mobile app, motivating visitors to travel around the state searching for unique attractions.

MYRTLE BEACH -- Tourism in South Carolina is now a record $23.8 billion industry, supporting one in every 10 jobs and generating $1.8 billion in state and local taxes, according to figures released by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.

SCPRT Director Duane Parrish announced the new impact in a “State of the Tourism Industry” presentation during the Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Travel at the Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort and Spa at Grande Dunes. The figures represent tourism business activity for the 2018 calendar year, the latest for which there is a comprehensive analysis.

Parrish said the state has been growing for about a decade and gave credit to the high standards of hospitality and variety of experiences offered in South Carolina destinations.

“We’re not a static, one-dimensional vacation destination,” he said. “We are an evolving, multifaceted collection of unique travel experiences. That’s what brings more, new visitors to our state each year, and that’s what keeps those visitors coming back year after year.”

Indicators for 2019 hint at even more growth, Parrish said, suggesting that tourism in South Carolina has just recently completed its seventh consecutive record year.

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For example, at the end of the last fiscal year, accommodations tax collections were up 4% and admissions tax collections were up nearly 5%.

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Deplanements at South Carolina’s five major airports are up 10.5% in 2019, reaching a record 5.8 million.

Hotel inventory increased by 2.9% in 2019, and overall room revenue increased by 2.5%. Additionally, AirDNA has reported that the inventory of available short-term rental properties in South Carolina totaled more than 50,000 last year, an increase of 9.7%.

To keep the momentum going, Parrish said SCPRT will expand its support for the industry. The agency has allocated an additional $100,000 to its Tourism Advertising Grant program and will be offering new advertising opportunities in the agency’s consumer e-newsletters and Facebook pages so that the industry can easily reach thousands of proven fans and followers.

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SCPRT also is expected to open a totally rebuilt welcome center on I-95 southbound in Dillon by early summer. State Parks, which recently exceeded its goal for operational self-sufficiency, will offer a new scavenger hunt mobile app, motivating visitors to travel around the state searching for unique attractions like a tabby fort or a Holcombe Hemlock tree.

SCPRT also will continue refurbishing the oceanfront house at St. Phillips Island to prepare for exclusive premium rentals. And the agency will prepare historic homes near the Lace House on the governor’s mansion complex in Columbia – the Caldwell Boylston House and Carriage House – as unique rental venues. Combined with the Lace House, those properties will be marketed as the Venues at Arsenal Hill.

The agency also will continue its partnership with the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust and the South Carolina Association of Tourism Regions as it helps the state celebrate the Sestercentennial of the Revolutionary War.

“These are just a few highlights of what we have lined up for this year as an agency and an industry to further capitalize on the success of the past 10 years,” Parrish said. “We’re hoping to set the stage for similar success in this new decade.”

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