SC pumps USD 20 million from the COVID-19 fund into the tourism marketing business

As the hospitality industry’s financial losses continue to mount, South Carolina is investing $ 20 million in tourism marketing efforts. More than half of this is for groups promoting the Charleston area and Grand Strand to visitors.

Of this, $ 15 million will go to target marketing organizations in the most popular tourist spots in the state. The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce receives $ 6.88 million, or about 46 percent of the target-specific money. Explore Charleston receives $ 4.08 million, or 27 percent.

Tourism groups in Hilton Head, Greenville, and Columbia will split the rest in descending order, but with fewer variations: their proportions will range from $ 1.28 to $ 1.43 million.

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Myrtle Beach is South Carolina’s top tourism earner and is receiving the lion’s share of a new infusion of marketing dollars from the state. File / Grace Beahm Alford / Staff

The money was distributed based on how much property taxes a market collects, state tourism director Duane Parrish said. Myrtle Beach is South Carolina’s largest tourist moneymaker, so it receives the biggest infusion of cash for marketing.

The state’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism will withhold the remaining $ 5 million for nationwide marketing and promotion of what is known as “Undiscovered South Carolina,” locations outside of the state’s top five destination areas.

The funds come from the COVID-19 Response Reserve Account, a pool of government funds made available by lawmakers in mid-May. Before any of the dollars are spent from the account, Governor Henry McMaster files a motion for comment with the Joint Bond Review Committee.

In a letter to committee chairman Senator Hugh Leatherman, McMaster wrote last month that the tourism industry has “borne the brunt of the COVID-19 damage to our economy,” citing an estimate by Parrish that the sector was in this Calendar is halved year because of the pandemic.

The SCPRT should “immediately launch an aggressive concerted marketing campaign,” wrote McMaster, so that South Carolina would “receive an equal or greater share of consumer spending” when Americans return to travel.

So far this year, the state has lost $ 4.9 billion in visitor spending compared to last year, according to the latest estimates released on Friday. That is a decrease of around 43 percent compared to the previous year.

The hotels have been about half full since the middle of the summer without much improvement. Last week there was a slight increase from 50.8 percent to 51.6 percent across the state. For most of the weeks, Hilton Head did the best, with an occupancy rate of almost 60 percent.

Revenue hotel real estate brings in per room has also declined during the pandemic. That number, called RevPAR, is down 43 percent.

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During a virtual meeting of the Joint Bond Review Committee on October 6, Parrish emphasized the competitiveness of the travel market. For the travelers who book trips, he wants them to choose Charleston instead of Savannah and Myrtle Beach instead of Virginia Beach, he said.

“The point now is to gain market share,” Parrish said of his comments. “At a time when the cake is smaller, you really want to keep your part of the cake.”

Following the meeting, Leatherman officially announced to the governor that he had “reviewed the $ 20 million request and made a positive decision.”

Parrish’s department originally asked for $ 40 million in tourism funding, and The Senate included this in a budget proposal last month. Now that half of that amount has come from the reserve account, there could be another $ 20 million in marketing across the board, depending on the state of the industry and the economy, when lawmakers return in January, Parrish said.

All target marketing groups who receive millions on advertising from the allocation will have to report to the committee on how the money was spent, Parrish said. The funds must be used for the placement or production of advertising.

In a letter this week outlining the group’s recovery strategy, Helen Hill, CEO of Explore Charleston, wrote to Parrish that it was based on “extensive comparative research” on a “younger, outdoor-centric, and general.” affluent demographic within a 6-8 hour drive of “Charleston County’s limited radius. “

This segment of the population in the “fly market” is also known as the “complementary strategy” as more flights are now returning to Charleston Airport.

They’ll turn to “familiar titles” to advertise, Hill wrote, including a four-page issue in the next issue of Condé Nast Traveler, the magazine whose Readers’ Choice Awards named Charleston the # 1 Small Town for the 10th consecutive year Year.

Explore Charleston and the other recipients will have until the end of June to spend the money so some can wait and focus on courting visitors in the spring and early summer in the hopes that the health threat, COVID-19, improves and grows the mood of travelers will change by then.

Right now it’s hard to say what the impact a marketing spurt will have, especially as the country’s COVID-19 case numbers rise as temperatures drop.

By doing latest iteration of an ongoing travel survey According to Longwood International, the percentage of Americans who feel safe traveling outside of their community has dropped to 48 percent from 50 percent at the end of last month. The proportion of Americans who said they support bringing tourists back to their area also fell from 43 percent to 38 percent.

About half of the country plans to stay home during the holiday season, according to the survey, roughly as much as the proportion who say coronavirus will “heavily influence” their decision to travel in the next six months.

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