South Carolina Tourism Losses Top $5.7 Billion

Locals seem to think losses aren’t as bad as advertised, though …

Believe it or not, South Carolina is far better positioned than most states to survive the economic reconfiguration facing our nation in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic – even with its atrocious workforce numbers.

As companies flee urban city centers – and workers increasingly set up shop in their own homes – the Palmetto State should be able to compete successfully for jobs and investment without having to resort to demonstrably failed crony capitalist scams.

Should …”

Obviously, whether the state competes or not will depend on the extent to which ostensibly “Republican” state lawmakers make broad-based income, sales and property tax relief a priority. Because as of this writing, South Carolina is not competitive on any of these fronts – especially its capital city of Columbia.

But all the tools are there for the Palmetto State to succeed … it just needs leaders willing to leverage these assets on behalf of the greater good as opposed to bloated bureaucracies and entrenched special interests.

Another arrow South Carolina has in its quiver is its gorgeous, 187-mile coastline – which has served for decades as the primary driver of a multi-billion dollar tourism industry.

Unfortunately, state and local leaders have done their level best to squander this jewel – just as they have done their best to squander South Carolina’s valuable maritime industry assets.

Not only have they failed to diversify this industry, but corrupt local leaders have neglected core functions of government like public safety – and failed to wisely appropriate ample infrastructure revenues.

While we hope for better stewardship in 2021, the book for 2020 is on the verge of closing – and the numbers are absolutely brutal.

According to Tourism Economics, South Carolina tourism revenues plunged by $99 million during the week that ended on December 12, 2020 – a 37 percent drop from the same week in 2019.

(Click to view)

(Via: Tourism Economics)

All told, revenues for 2020 are down by $5.7 billion – a decline of 41 percent from the same time period in 2019.

Statewide revenue per available room – or RevPAR, a key industry metric – mirrored those declines. During the week ending December 12 it slumped to $30.21 – down 34.3 percent from the equivalent week a year ago and down 40.4 percent for the year.

Like we said … brutal.

According to one local business owner we spoke with, though, the impact of Covid-19 hasn’t been nearly as apocalyptic as some think. The business owner – who is based in the heart of Myrtle Beach, S.C. – said the Grand Strand area of the state is proving resilient despite virus and its attendant bad press.

Of course it’s a mixed bag …

“I know so many businesses that did AWESOME this year, and some who are drowning,” she told us. “I would say all but like 20 percent of people here are acting like Covid does not exist.”

“It’s really crazy,” she continued. “Right now the boulevard is (a) ghost town, BUT weekends in even November and December have been busy – and the past couple weeks all the stores are packed with Christmas shoppers. I would definitely say lockdowns, et cetera, have impacted things – but most (businesses) floated by with those PPP loans and the anticipation of Trump signing the second package for another.”

Well, assuming that happens …

“Myrtle Beach is a weird beast and definitely turning into the land of the ‘haves and the have-nots,'” she added. “I am almost fifty and have been here my whole life. Growing up we enjoyed the best of both worlds – being a booming ‘city’ where everyone wants to come in the summer and being a sleepy beach town where we have the place to ourselves in the winter. That doesn’t exist anymore.”

As for the doom-and-gloom revenue pronouncements released by the state, our source told us those numbers were difficult to pin down.

“It’s so hard to say about revenue estimates – some over-inflate them and some are intentionally showing a loss,” she said. “I can tell you some shops at Broadway surpassed their figures from last year – which one would find hard to believe with a month-long lockdown and knee-deep in a pandemic.”

Indeed … although the economic pain associated with Covid-19 and its subsequent societal shutdowns has obviously not been evenly distributed.

Down the road in Charleston, S.C. however, business owners we spoke with said the tourism apocalypse was very visible to them.

“It’s awful,” one business owner told us. “I don’t know how it will recover until Covid is over.”

Another said the state’s revenue data “erred on the small side,” meaning they believed the actual loss to the industry was far greater than the $5.7 billion currently being reported.




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