Columbia has 11,565 hotel rooms.
That’s from Katie Montgomery of the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, citing Smith Travel Research, a hospitality research and data group.
Experience Columbia, the city’s tourism authority, predicts 20,000 to 25,000 people will come to town for the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament this weekend. Not all of those people will be from out of town, but Scott Powers, director of Experience Columbia, thinks 2,000 to 4,000 people might be traveling from areas beyond the Midlands.
“We don’t know,” Powers said, “because we’ve never hosted before.”
With Duke University and national sensation Zion Williamson playing in Columbia, rooms are expected to get gobbled up faster than they already are.
And you have all the players, team staff and production crews who are already set up to stay in the big name hotels, according to Montgomery.
“Our hotels are thrilled the tournament is coming to Columbia and looking forward to rolling out the red carpet for basketball fans,” Montgomery said.
When hotels start getting booked up in a town the industry insider term is “compression,” said Marcus Munse, Columbia’s president of the restaurant and lodging association and manager of Hotel Trundle.
People who didn’t get their lodging set up early may resort to booking a room in Lexington, northeast Columbia or other areas outside downtown, according to Munse and Powers.
While hotel insiders are predicting a big weekend for their business, for Munse the tournament coming to Columbia carries significance beyond a business boom.
“There’s been some issues in the past where we can’t host,” Munse said. “It’s good to get away from that stigma of what Columbia is, why we couldn’t host in the past, and what we may be.”
The NCAA had banned the state from hosting most post-season events because a Confederate flag flew on the State House grounds. The ban was lifted after the flag was removed in 2015 following the massacre of nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
Here are some hotels in downtown Columbia, closest to the action, that still have rooms:
- Inn at USC, 1619 Pendleton St., Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 779-7779
- Hampton Inn in the Vista, 822 Gervais St., Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 231-2000
- Hyatt Place, 819 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 978-2013
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites, 501 Taylor St., Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 744-4000
- Staybridge Suites, 1913 Huger St., Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 451-5900
- Embassy Suites, 200 Stoneridge Drive, Columbia, SC 29210 (803) 252-8700
- Hotel Trundle, 1224 Taylor St, Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 722-5000