The reputation of Gov. Mark Sanford may be tarnished as more details emerge about his trysts with a mistress from Argentina, but the public image of the state he leads appears to have remained intact.
"The state's reputation as a tourism destination will rise above the negative publicity it might be getting for the next couple of days," said Bill Golden, the president of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, a marketing group. "As news cycles go, this will in time fade to the general public."
Sanford's affair, revealed after he disappeared for days and lied about his whereabouts, is the latest negative headline to come out of South Carolina in the past several months. Brittanee Drexel, a 17-year-old New York teen, went missing from Myrtle Beach and a wildfire tore through a portion of North Myrtle Beach in April.
Sanford also brought publicity to the state recently by being the only governor who fought not to accept federal stimulus money, and earlier this month, state Republican activist Rusty DePass made headlines when he referred to a gorilla as an "ancestor" of first lady Michelle Obama. DePass later apologized.
Never miss a local story.
But local tourism officials said they were not concerned Sanford's latest revelation would keep travelers from visiting the state. Nor had Drexel's disappearance or the wildfire - which destroyed more than 70 homes - deterred vacationers, they said.
"I don't think that most people when reading something like that are going to take it to the extreme that they might say, 'Well, gee, I'm not going to take my vacation there,'" said Marc Jordan, the president of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce. "I really don't think it would come to that."
The Sanford scandal was not on the minds of Michael and Colleen Todd, who were visiting Broadway at the Beach this week with their 2-year-old son, Alex. It was the Winston-Salem, N.C., family's third or fourth time in Myrtle Beach, they said.
"All politicians are crooked in my opinion, so I'm not really surprised," Michael Todd, 39, said when asked about Sanford. "I didn't come to see him anyway."
Brent Merrill, 49, who was visiting Myrtle Beach for the first time from Maryland with his wife, Nancy, and two sons, Greg, 12, and Evan, 14, said he was not going to base his perception of an area based on the actions of its politicians. Besides, he said, the family experienced nothing but quintessential Southern hospitality while in Myrtle Beach.
"I know he was elected by the people," Merrill said, "but he doesn't necessarily represent the people."
South Carolina certainly does not have a monopoly on governor scandals. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York resigned last year after patronizing a prostitution service, and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois resigned this year after allegedly trying to sell President Obama's vacant Senate seat.
Pauline Levesque, the president of the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association, noted that revelations last year that former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards of North Carolina had an affair did not stop people from visiting that state.
"The problems are the same nationally, and every state has issues because it's human nature," she said.
When the wildfire broke out in the North Myrtle Beach area in April, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce led an intense public relations campaign to get the word out to visitors that most of the beach was accessible and open.
It has remained silent on the Sanford issue, said Kimberly Miles, the chamber's public relations manager, because it does not specifically relate to Myrtle Beach or tourism.
"In the scheme of things, we have so much positive publicity that comes out of our area from various media outlets every month that far outweighs any correlation to this issue with Sanford," she said.
Still, the scandal did not go unnoticed in North Carolina, said Kaye Piscitelli, 38, who was visiting Myrtle Beach from Raleigh, N.C., with her husband, Gene. Piscitelli, a South Carolina native who used to work as a Senate page in Columbia, said she was not surprised at Sanford's actions.
"I don't think they were judging the state based on his actions," she said of friends in Raleigh. "I think they were just laughing saying, 'Oh, another politician got caught with his pants down.'"