Destination Marketing Program

Destination Marketing: Educating the Potential Visitor

Destination Marketing Organizations must educate potential visitors on reasons to visit their destinations. For the Columbia region, many are unaware of the area's attributes for visitors. With diverse target audiences - including those interested in family activities, historic sites, outdoor adventure, romantic getaways, culinary experiences, arts, culture and more - Experience Columbia SC must advertise and market in order to tout our region's attributes. A special budget has been put into place to increase general awareness of Columbia as a destination.

The Destination Specific Grant Program: A Statewide Partnership

The Destination Specific Grant Program, put into place by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, offers the state's top tourist destinations, able to raise $500,000 or more of private funds, special funding to further the destination's marketing efforts. For each private dollar raised, the state will match 50 cents to be used to market the destination and its assets.

Destinations such as Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head raise millions of private dollars each year, and therefore, obtain substantial marketing funds. The Columbia area has raised over $1 million in private funds annually over the past few years. Our goal is to increase awareness of this program within our local hotel community, thus increasing the total match amount available. With this program in place, each $1.00 raised enables Experience Columbia SC to leverage $1.50 on marketing aimed to bring new visitors to the Columbia region.

How Can My Property Participate?

To participate, a Destination Marketing Fee of 2% per night, plus South Carolina state sales tax (7% in Lexington County and 8% in Richland County) would be added to all guest folios. At the point of check-out, the guest has the opportunity to pay the fee and applicable associated tax, or opt out upon request. No money comes out of the hotel budget.

Preferred Partner Benefits

Hotel partners who participate in the Destination Marketing Program become "Preferred Partners" and receive exclusive benefits beyond the standard partnership services.

Enhanced Visibility (Exclusive to Preferred Partners)
  • Free priority listing, highlighted as Preferred Hotel and ranking above non-Preferred Hotel listings on and mobile site
  • Free Preferred Hotel listing, highlighted and enhanced, in the Columbia Official Visitors Guide
  • Free rack space to distribute hotel brochures at the Columbia SC Visitors Center
Additional Benefits
  • Property listing as Preferred Hotel in each meeting/convention proposal or guide produced by sales team 
  • Presence or promotional item distribution at applicable tradeshows
  • Discounted Hospitality Hotspotters registration ($10.00 off) for participating staff members to each training session

Showcase Your Business through the Destination Marketing Program

If you're looking for ways to help your business stand out in the minds of visitors and meeting planners, contact our partnership services manager, Judie VanPatten, at 803.545.0021 or to become a Destination Marketing partner.

Current Destination Marketing Fund Partners