South Carolina’s hotel occupancy has grown 30.7% in 2021, outpacing the nation’s recovery rate of 18.6%.
According to Duane Parrish, director of S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism, in a letter to Gov. Henry McMaster on Friday, the rise in leisure travel has been instrumental to the recovery of the state’s hospitality and tourism industries following a devastating year.
In the address, Parrish thanked Gov. McMaster and the General Assembly for investing in South Carolina’s tourism industry through the allocation of Response Reserve Funds in the fall. The funds were used to boost paid tourism advertising from November through June.
“The recovery of leisure travel, especially from consumers in key drive markets, has not only benefitted our state’s lodging sector, but also many of the other prominent sectors of our tourism business community – especially those related to outdoor recreation,” Parrish said in the letter.
In addition to hotel growth, South Carolina outpaced the rest of the country in the short-term rental market, Parrish said. While the country saw only .2% gains over the last 12 months, South Carolina consumer-demand increased 12%.
Rounds of golf in the Palmetto State also increased with a 28% gain in May compared to the same period in 2020, Parrish said. Local and state parks further saw an increase to the point where 12 state parks reach maximum capacity almost every weekend.
“I believe the state’s actions to quickly and diligently address our tourism industry needs last year placed South Carolina ahead of the curve in terms of leisure travel recovery,” Parrish said. “Because of this timely investment, our state and its destinations were able to keep consumers engaged and pro-actively tap into their pent-up demand for leisure travel experiences.”
While recovery is steady now, Parrish said the state cannot let its foot off the gas and must continue to invest, not only for the future of the industry, but to recuperate business for affiliated sectors, particularly international and domestic leisure and business travel. Parrish said both are critical to ensuring the tourism industry’s long-term sustainability.
“I am hopeful that, if we can maintain this momentum of recovery, our tourism industry will overcome the economic ill-effects of the COVID pandemic and, perhaps, gain an even greater market-share of tourism business in the long-term,” Parrish said.