Tourism has posted record numbers for three straight years, growing into a $19 billion industry in South Carolina, state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Duane Parrish announced on Wednesday.
Parrish told attendees at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Travel that tourism meant $19.1 billion to state’s economy during 2014.
He said the figure was up about 5.5 percent, or about $1 billion, from the previous year. Overall impact figures lag about a year behind the calendar year.
Parrish noted that 2015 was another record year in several other important tourism categories. Hotel occupancy statewide was just over 62 percent, an increase of 2.1 percent over the previous year.
Revenue per available room, an important gauge of industry health, was over $65 — an increase of 7 percent and better than the national growth rate of 6.3 percent. And last year about $1.1 billion in new tourism development was announced statewide.
The strong figures were recorded despite last October’s devastating floods that, according to estimates, resulted in a drop of as much as $35 million in visitor spending because of uncertainty about which destinations were open.
Parrish called the national media coverage of the flooding “both a blessing and a curse.”
It was a blessing, he said, because such coverage encouraged people elsewhere to send aid to help the people of South Carolina recover. But it was curse because coverage focusing on floods “gave the impression that the entire state was in a shambles,” causing “a tidal wave” of reservation cancellations.
Coastal destinations such as Myrtle Beach and Charleston mounted media campaigns with television, print, Internet and social media letting visitors know tourist destinations were open, as were the roads leading to the coast. The theme of the state campaign was “Our Coast Is Clear.”
Parrish also announced a new marketing campaign to focus on what he called South Carolina’s “liquid assets.” The “Satisfy Your Thirst” campaign is designed to draw visitors to businesses that make everything beverages including beer, tea, milk and moonshine.