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S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s tourism czar recently predicted “double digit growth” for the state’s tourism economy in 2012 … although it’s looking increasingly like that prediction isn’t going to pan out.

Wait … if you’re anything like us, you’re probably thinking “why does South Carolina has a tourism czar?”

Seriously … since when did promoting tourism become a core function of government? Shouldn’t that be left to the businesses that directly benefit from this particular segment of the economy? Furthermore … don’t beaches pretty much sell themselves?

Sure they do, but government in South Carolina nonetheless remains intimately involved in the business of tourism promotion … so intimately, in fact, that numerous “Republican” politicians were recently ensnared in a major pay-to-play scandal involving a new tourism tax.

How major? Well, the FBI and IRS are jointly investigating … so there’s that.

Anyway, as we’ve reported on several occasions (here and here, for example), South Carolina’s tourism economy bounced back in 2010 from a pair of awful years – although the state still hasn’t matched its 2007 totals. In fact revenue per available room (or RevPAR, the key tourism metric) was off by 11.4 percent last year from its 2007 peak.

In 2011, things started off strong but then flattened out during the peak summer months as the economy sputtered. As a result, South Carolina will miss Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) director Duane Parrish’s original “double digit” growth projection – the one for this year.

But what about next year?

Well, a research economist at Coastal Carolina University told The Sun News on Tuesday that the Grand Strand tourism economy was sending “mixed signals,” that the future would be “difficult to predict” and that ongoing sluggishness in the national economy would have “an impact on the local economy.”

Translation? Don’t expect Parrish’s “double digit growth” predictions to materialize anytime soon …

Here’s the real point, though … South Carolina could dump the millions of dollars it spends on tourism promotion each year directly into the ocean and it probably wouldn’t make a dent in the numbers. And even if those tax dollars did have an impact, it still doesn’t mean that tourism promotion is something the government should be subsidizing.

For that matter, nor are unnecessary interstates that are supposed to handle all the diminished traffic our beaches are receiving.

Sadly, our state will likely continue to fund this non-core function – fueling the rampant cronyism and corruption that goes along with it – in good years and bad years, taking credit when the numbers are good and making excuses when the numbers are bad.

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