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Columbia Business Monthly

Travel and hospitality business leaders bullish on 2019

Jan 08, 2019 11:12AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Leigh Savage

Weather is a major factor for the travel and tourism industry, and Hurricanes Florence and Michael put a damper on the South Carolina coast in 2018. But J. Perrin Lawson, deputy director and vice president of business development at Explore Charleston, said the year turned out well despite those obstacles. He was optimistic for even more growth in 2019. 

“With the growth in air service we’ve continued to enjoy, including new service between Charleston and London on British Airways, people from many more places can now enjoy visiting the Charleston area,” he said.

Jason Outman, executive director at Experience Columbia, said tourism was a $2.1 billion industry in his region, with growth ranging from 2 to 5 percent in hotel occupancy, average daily rate, and revenue per available room. The region “is on pace to close the calendar year with the highest occupancy percentage since we began keeping reports in 2010,” and he expects the strong performance to continue next year.

In Greenville, large regional events and leisure travelers will bring many to the area, according to Chris Stone, president of VisitGreenvilleSC. “Consumers and meeting planners will continue to place high value on quality, combined with an authentic experience,” he said. “Greenville’s emergence as a ‘high-quality surprise’ will become even more recognized in the coming year.”

Joey Von Nessen, research economist at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, adds that the uptick in leisure and hospitality will continue due to steady job growth, increases in wages, lower gas prices, and more disposable income. “South Carolina benefits from that spending activity more than the national average,” he said. The industry “benefits both from short-term consumer spending and long-term demographic trends.”