Tourism is South Carolina’s No. 1 industry, generating more than $1.3 billion in state and local taxes each year. The tourism industry also supports one in 10 jobs in the state. Various other industries, from recreation to food and beverage to manufacturing, rely on a strong tourism sector.
The Grand Strand is primarily a “drive-to” destination, and our tourism industry is contingent on safe, reliable and uncongested routes to and from numerous settings. Kingston Resorts, located along the Grand Strand of South Carolina, boasts one of the largest complexes in Myrtle Beach sprawling across 145 acres. Our success thrives on the throngs of families who load up the minivans and hit our country’s highways, byways and secondary roads that lead to any of our accommodations and the many other outstanding properties across the state.
I am concerned about the effect of deteriorating infrastructure on the tourism industry and the perception of South Carolina to outside visitors. For years, I’ve heard visitors negatively comment on the difference between South Carolina’s roads and other states. Whether it’s Interstate 95, 26 or 85, the stories tend to be the same. South Carolina has made outstanding strides in attracting worldwide travelers, consistently ranking at the top of “top vacation” and “top locales to visit” lists. We cannot ignore infrastructure’s impact when investing in this industry.
South Carolina invests fewer state dollars per mile on roads than any other state in the nation. Compound that with the fact that we have the fourth largest state maintained highway system in the nation. Nearly all 50 states substantially supplement their highway programs with other dedicated non-fuel tax revenues.
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I ask our policy makers to make sustainable and recurring funding of roads and bridges a top priority. We cannot kick the can down the road any longer.
The writer is managing director of the Embassy Suites at Kingston Plantation and Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort at Kingston Shores.