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Tourism on the rise in the Palmetto State

Hospitality and Tourism
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Tourism in South Carolina is a $20.2 billion industry that supports one in 10 jobs and generates $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenues, according to the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Locally, in 2015, visitors to Greenville generated more than $1.1 billion in direct spending in the community and $64.5 million in state and local taxes, according to a report from VisitGreenvilleSC. The report also shows tourism in Greenville creates 9,500 jobs and visitor spending benefits Greenville county residents with $234 million in wages and salaries.

David Montgomery, vice president of sales for VisitGreenvilleSC, said Greenville has become more of a destination spot over the years for a variety of reasons. The city has been recognized in multiple national outlets such as Travel & Leisure, which named Greenville as having one of the top 10 Greatest Main Streets; Southern Living, which called the city one of the south’s “tastiest towns,” and Men’s Journal, which called Greenville one of the Top 18 Coolest Towns in America.

These recognitions draw attention to the city, as do major sporting events.

In March, Greenville hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. The city also hosted the 2017 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament earlier this year.

Montgomery also said the popularity of Greenville is also a result of the #YeahThatGreenville brand awareness movement that began in 2013.

“That brand resonates with all travelers and it gives the local community a sense of pride,” he said, adding that locals have also been using the brand on social media platforms.

In 2015, Greenville had 2.8 million overnight hotel visitor, with the average spent per stay of $818. There were 1.1 million day trippers to Greenville in 2015, with the average amount spent being $107, according to the VisitGreenvilleSC report.

The U.S. Travel Association reports spending by visitors from the United Stated totaled approximately $13 million in 2016, up from about $12.5 million in 2015 and $12 million in 2014. In addition:

  • Domestic visitation to South Carolina averages 30 million annually
  • Canadian visitation estimates based on Statistics Canada data range from 600,000 to 900,000 since 2010

Estimates from the U.S. Department of Customs’ I-94 data indicate that South Carolina is the first or primary destination for approximately 100,000 overseas visitors annually

The U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries’ In-flight Survey estimates South Carolina receives on average about 260,000 overseas visitors annually, more than double the number captured in the U.S. Department of Customs’ I-94 data.

In 2016, statewide hotel occupancy grew by 3.2% and, combined with increases in average daily rates, yielded a hotel RevPAR (revenue per available room) increase of 7.2%, outpacing growth both nationally and in the South Atlantic region. RevPAR has increased 54% since 2010 even though the room inventory has grown every year, according to the U.S. Travel Association. 

Reach Teresa Cutlip at 720-1223.

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