Summer is almost here and soon our community will welcome millions of visitors eager to enjoy a Grand Strand vacation. Restaurants will be busy, theaters will be packed, golf courses will be booked, flights will be full, and highways will be loaded with cars, RVs and motorcycles. But we’re not just a summer beach destination today. The Grand Strand is quickly emerging as more of a national, year-round destination; perhaps you have already noticed more visitors arriving throughout the year to enjoy all that we offer.
This week, through May 13, is National Travel and Tourism Week. Along the Grand Strand, we have much to celebrate.
According to Coastal Carolina University, our local tourism industry generates $7 billion of annual economic impact, an average of nearly $20 million of daily economic activity. Add to that figure more than $500 million in taxes and fees paid to local and state governments, and you begin to realize just how impactful our local tourism industry is, not only in our area, but all of South Carolina.
Tourism also accounts for 83,000 jobs in our area, most of which are year-round positions. Those jobs sustain local families and keep our economy humming. It’s these individuals who deliver the daily Southern hospitality that makes our tourism industry so successful.
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The theme of this year’s National Tourism Week is the “Faces of Travel.” Not only do we celebrate the 18 million visitors who will come to the Grand Strand in 2017, but also our friends, family and neighbors who serve them. We are pleased to join the U.S. Travel Association in shining a spotlight on the men and women who keep our tourism industry strong.
Of course, tourism requires much more than dedicated employees. We need to improve our infrastructure and build roads, such as Interstate 73. We need to protect our natural resources, especially our beautiful 60-mile stretch of beachfront. We need to continue growing air service, making it easier and more affordable to fly to the Grand Strand. And we need to balance the needs of tourism with the needs of residents, recognizing that economic growth and quality of life are not mutually exclusive.
We’ve enjoyed extraordinary growth in our local tourism industry in recent years, but the future holds even greater potential.
Through the Grand Strand 2020 initiative, we will soon welcome 20 million visitors annually and create more than 1,000 new jobs. This will be accomplished through vision, collaboration and an unwavering commitment to unrivaled hospitality. To learn more about our local tourism industry and the local Faces of Travel, please visit www.TourismWorksForUs.com .
Please join me in celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week by thanking our visitors and acknowledging those hard-working employees who serve them. Because of them, the future is bright for the Grand Strand and its tourism industry.
The writer is president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.