Tourism generated a record $22.6 billion in 2017

Tourism generated a record economic impact of $22.6 billion industry in South Carolina in 2017, an increase of $1.4 billion from 2016, according to figures released Monday at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Travel.

The figures, announced by S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism director Duane Parrish, marked the sixth consecutive year of tourism growth in the state and a 50% increase since 2010, according to a news release.

There has also been a 63% increase in hotel RevPAR in the state since 2010, according to the release. RevPAR is a performance metric calculated by dividing a hotel’s total room revenue by the room count and number of days in the period being measured.

Parrish said the growth has been driven by a commitment to promoting traditional vacation hotspots as well as investment in off-the-beaten-path destinations. New hotels across the state and the presence of NCAA postseason basketball tournaments have also boosted tourism growth, he said.

“Never before has tourism been so complex. Never before have we talked about tourism so comprehensively,” Parrish said in the release. “And never before has there been a better time to be a part of the South Carolina tourism industry.”

Parrish expressed optimism for continued growth, noting the 2018 filming of the movie Halloween in South Carolina. Productions from HBO, Netflix and Sonar Entertainment have already guaranteed that 2019 will mark the fourth straight year that the state has seen nine months or more of film production, Parrish said.  

Parrish also cited new nonstop flights between Charleston International Airport and London as likely to keep tourism growing and pointed to record amounts of revenue generated by state parks in fiscal year 2017-18.

To help ensure continued growth, Parrish said the tourism department is seeking $1 million in additional marketing funds for its budget and moving forward with beach renourishment at Hunting Island State Park, along with public tours of nearby St. Phillips Island. The department is also rebuilding the S.C. welcome center in Dillon at the N.C. border.