South Carolina Tourism Industry Rising in the Ranks
Featured in South Carolina Business Magazine, November/December 2012

South Carolinians embody a sense of pride like no other. They understand sweet tea tastes best out of a mason jar, grits are seasoned with salt not sugar, rocking chairs are a front porch staple, neighbors are considered family, almost anything can be fried and "shaggin" is not a bad word. When individuals from outside of the state visit South Carolina, this homegrown sense of pride is what attracts them and what they enjoy experiencing when here. Likewise, this Southern mentality and way of life is what makes nearly every South Carolinian a part of the tourism industry.

As a whole, tourism continues to thrive as the number one industry in the state; employing one in every ten South Carolinians. As a vital building block to driving local and statewide economy, tourism industry leaders have worked tirelessly to showcase the various attributes that make South Carolina a desirable destination. With events like April's Indie Grits Festival bringing film, music, art and food enthusiasts from across the nation to the Columbia area, the state's popularity is steadily increasing due in part to these types of multifaceted tourism initiatives. This year, many within the tourism industry were recognized for going above and beyond to make visitor experiences exciting, comfortable, tasty, adventurous and most importantly, memorable.

Located in the heart of the Palmetto State and a major driver of business, convention, festival, event, governmental and leisure travel, the Columbia region was recognized by Boating Magazine as one of the "Top Ten Places to Live and Boat," as well as named by Forbes Magazine as one of the "25 Best Places to Retire in 2012." Within the last few years multiple revitalization, new construction and expansion projects have turned eyes to the Columbia region. The cities sense of graciousness, central location and innovative business community also aids in the allure of new residents, business developers and entrepreneurs.

Also attracting visitors to the epicenter of tourism is the number one gated attraction in the state, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. Having recently completed the construction of "Sky High Safari," a four story ropes course overlooking the zoo, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden has created an outdoor adventure that has new and returning visitors flocking to Columbia. This year, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden set an all-time record for attendance and was named one of the top five zoos in the nation by TripAdvisor.

It's hard to deny strolling the streets of downtown Greenville and searching for hidden bronze mice isn't a great way to end a long weekend. The city's popular street was named one of the "Top Main Streets in the United States" by Travel + Leisure Magazine. The Brown Street Club, located off Main Street in downtown Greenville, was the only restaurant in the state named to OpenTable diner's choice list for "Top 100 Late Night Dining Restaurants."

Historic elements are also a draw to South Carolina. Charleston earned the number six spot of the "Best U.S. Historic Destinations" by U.S. News & World Report; a well deserved honor and nod to the city's investment in historic preservation. Also notable, Charleston's Husk, known for creatively incorporating sustainable, local produce into menu items, is the reigning "Best Restaurant in America" chosen by Bon Appetite Magazine; a recognition all within South Carolina's tourism industry can boast in.

The picturesque city of Beaufort was honored with being named a "Coastal Dream Town" by Coastal Living Magazine. The ocean, Southern sun and surf is an ideal recipe for a great vacation destination. Additionally, Myrtle Beach was named one of the "Best Beaches in the U.S." and listed as one of the "Most Affordable U.S. Vacations," by U.S. News and World Report.

Also receiving high honors was Aiken's primer hotel, The Willcox. Recognized as one of the "Top 50 Hotels in The World" by Travel + Leisure magazine, this property is an example of Southern hospitality at its finest. Wild Dunes Resort and Kiawah Island Resort have both worked to create an environment that guests will never want to leave, skyrocketing these properties to the top of an elite list of resorts across the world. Wild Dunes Resort was named a "Top 20 Southern U.S. Golf Resorts" by Conde Nast Traveler's readers' poll in both 2011 and 2012. Kiawah Island Golf Resort was recognized as a "Top Continental U.S. And Canada Resort" by Travel + Leisure magazine, as well as honored with a place on the "Top Properties in the World" list by Conde Nast Traveler's readers' choice award.

In addition to business and leisure travel, sports tourism has become a big business for South Carolina. Rock Hill and York Country tourism departments were recognized by SportsEvents Media Group as "Industry Leaders in Sports Tourism" and named a "Top 10 Soccer City" by Rock Hill recently completed the construction of a new sports venue, the Giordana Velodrome, a facility that will undoubtedly entice event planners to consider this part of South Carolina while scouting venues for local, regional and national sporting events.

While these accolades are just a sampling of the countless recognitions earned by restaurants, attractions, properties and cities across the state, it is important to note that a win for one, is a win for all in South Carolina. Tourism industry leaders within the state have capitalized on the charming characteristics that make this state what is it is. Undoubtedly these efforts will continue to propel the state forward generating revenue, highlighting its value and making South Carolina a second to none destination.

Article featured in November/December 2012 South Carolina Business Magazine