COLUMBIA -- Tourism is now a $22.6 billion industry in South Carolina, representing a $1.4 billion increase over the previous year and a 50 percent increase since 2010, according to estimates by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.
The figures, announced by SCPRT Director Duane Parrish during the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Travel, represent business activity in 2017 and mark the sixth consecutive year of tourism growth in South Carolina.
Additionally, there has been a 63 percent increase in hotel RevPAR in South Carolina (or revenue per available room, a key indicator of visitation levels and tourism strength) since 2010.
Parrish credits collaborative work between multiple tourism organizations for the growth, saying an investment in off-the-beaten path destinations as well as a commitment to traditional vacation areas have opened up new possibilities for the industry.
SCPRT’s overarching marketing theme “There’s Always Something New to Discover” helped influence more trips to the heartland since campaigns like the Barbecue Trail began in the fall of 2013, he said. The development of new hotels across the state and the presence of post-season tournaments for the National Collegiate Athletic Association also have boosted tourism activity.
“Never before has tourism been so complex. Never before have we talked about tourism so comprehensively,” Parrish said. “And never before has there been a better time to be a part of the South Carolina tourism industry.”
Parrish said recent developments suggest the tourism industry in South Carolina likely will remain strong.
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The blockbuster movie Halloween was filmed in South Carolina in 2018, and its success at the box office helps position the state as a great place for film production. The state has recruited productions from HBO, Netflix and Sonar Entertainment, making 2019 the fourth consecutive year of nine or more months of film production.
Additionally, Parrish said, the acquisition of non-stop flights on British Airways between Charleston International and London Heathrow airports also should expand tourism in South Carolina.
State Parks, many of which are located in undiscovered areas of South Carolina, generated record amounts of revenue in FY 2017-18, becoming more self-sufficient.
Parrish also said SCPRT hopes to strengthen the momentum for tourism growth by:
- Seeking $1 million additional marketing funding in its budget request to help tourism more quickly recover from natural disasters in the fall.
- Moving forward with beach renourishment at Hunting Island State Park and public tours of nearby St. Phillips Island.
- Rebuilding the welcome center on I-95 south at the North Carolina border in Dillon to help meet the demands of today’s traveler.
“At PRT, our constant is our primary mission, which has and will continue to be growing South Carolina’s economy by putting heads in beds, people in the parks and feet on the fairways,” Parrish told the audience of tourism leaders at the conference. “And we look forward to working alongside all of you to further this mission by showing our residents and visitors from across the nation and around the world that there’s always something new to Discover in South Carolina.”