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SC Tourism: Mixed Early Signals



Shortly after S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley was elected, her “tourism czar” – S.C. Parks Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT) director Duane Parrish – promised double-digit annual growth in the state’s tourism economy. In both 2011 and 2012, though, he missed that mark.

Still, South Carolina could finally climb back out of its recessionary hole in 2013.

During the month of May, for example, its revenue per available room (or “RevPAR, the key tourism metric) grew by 7.2 percent – easily outpacing the national average of 4.7 percent, according to SCPRT. Those numbers are much better than last May’s performance – when those percentages were almost reversed.

Still, the Palmetto State’s year-to-date numbers once again trailing the national average. Through the first five months of 2013, the state has seen a modest 5 percent increase in RevPAR compared to the national growth rate of 6.3 percent.

Of course the peak tourism season has only just begun …

In 2007 South Carolina’s annual occupancy rate was 58.8 percent and its RevPAR was $51.31. Then the recession hit – which resulted in brutal years in 2009 and 2010. Last year, the occupancy rate had climbed back to 54.5 percent and RevPAR was back up to $50.99.

Almost there, right?

Yeah … but these are natural economic trends that mirror the broader economy. And we would be seeing them at work whether our state spent tens of millions of dollars annually on government-funded tourism marketing. Or not.

Translation? Government shouldn’t spend tens of millions of dollars annually on tourism marketing …