In This Issue
Thank you, Spartanburg!
Duane Parrish Director, SCPRT  
I can't say enough how much I appreciated Spartanburg rolling out the red carpet for the 52nd annual tourism conference this month, making everyone feel welcomed, valued and comfortable in the Spartanburg Marriott and in our Foothills region.  Not only was the city beautiful, but VisitSpartanburg proved they're an emerging destination, full of great food, intriguing attractions and phenomenal experiences worthy of attention and lots of visitors.
They were excellent partners in the development of the conference and helped our PRT planning staff make the event a value-added experience for the industry.  The opening reception at the Chapman Cultural Center offered a "Taste of Spartanburg" showcasing the city's top restaurants and beverage spots.  The scavenger hunt was a unique way to discover hidden gems, and Tuesday's tours took delegates to some of the top and story-worthy attractions in the region. (There's a Buddhist Temple in Spartanburg?)
A noteworthy special touch, however, put this conference over the top. An impromptu performance by the Upstate Vocal Ensemble from the University of South Carolina-Upstate of the gospel song "Amazing Grace" surprised our delegates during a late-morning break. See video here. The song has roots in Spartanburg. The beloved poem was set to music in the 1800s by native William Walker.
The conference in general was extraordinary. Gov. McMaster took time out of his busy schedule to lead the awards luncheon and the conference team organized a great schedule of speakers and sessions.
Overall, this annual gathering of tourism professionals continues to strengthen partnerships, inspire and motivate us all. And I hope delegates went back to their destinations with great ideas and enthusiasm to grow more tourism!

TAG Deadline 
is March 31
The deadline for Tourism Advertising Grant applications is 5 p.m. Friday, March 31. TAG's purpose is to expand the economic benefits of tourism across the state by providing competitive, matching grant funds to qualified tourism marketing partners for direct tourism advertising expenditures. For more information, visit
STAR Grant Program Resumes
SCPRT is now accepting applications for its Sports Tourism Advertising and Recruitment Grant program. The purpose of the grant is to provide financial assistance to nonprofit tourism or sports-related organizations, applying through their local governments, for the recruitment of new sporting events. For more information, click here.
March 1, 2017

Statewide Hotel RevPar -- Another record year for tourism in South Carolina helped boost 2016 statewide RevPAR seven percent higher than 2015.
Admissions Tax -- An admissions tax report was not available for the month of December as upgrades are made to the tax processing system.
State Parks Revenue --  A large refund was posted in December because some areas are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew, but large increases in admissions and retail sales offset some of that loss. 

Coastal destinations reported an increase in deplanements for the holiday month of December. Deplanements for all of 2016 were 6% greater than the previous year.

Occupancy Forecast
STR Inc. forecasts spring 2017 hotel occupancy rates in South Carolina to be similar to those in spring 2016.
Governor McMaster Presented Awards During Tourism Conference
Governor Henry McMaster presented tourism industry achievement awards to two major events and a hotel employee during the annual South Carolina Governor's Conference on Tourism and Travel held in Spartanburg.
The prestigious Governor's Cup was given to the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d'Elegance for being the most outstanding tourism effort in the state for 2016.
The festival is a 10-day automobile celebration usually held on the resort
Pictured left to right are Gov. McMaster; Carolyn Vanagle, the festival's president; Merry Harlacher, chairman of the board, and SCPRT Director Duane Parrish.
island in the fall, where visitors find everything from the latest European performance cars to museum-quality vintage vehicles. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck the Lowcountry just a few weeks before the festival was scheduled to be held, and left coordinators with the daunting tasks of re-organizing around severely damaged venues, and spreading the word that the festival was still going on.  After a collaborative effort with the community and local governments, and with a recovery campaign that included extensive social media, the organizers were able to promote South Carolina as back open for business within weeks of the storm. And it worked. The motoring festival attracted visitors from 45 states and 12 different countries. Total attendance was 18,000. More than 2,000 room nights were booked and the average guest stay was 4.25 nights. Organizers estimate the total economic impact was $12 million.
Pictured left to right are Gov. McMaster, Holly Shady, Jamison Mady, Carla Angus, Taronda Barnes, Karen Fowler, Seth Kines, Marion Fowler and SCPRT Director Duane Parrish. 
The relatively new ArtFields event in Lake City was given the Charles A. Bundy Award for outstanding efforts to boost tourism in a rural community. In only its third year, the festival has transformed the traditional tobacco town of Lake City into a popular destination for art.  For nine days every spring, the festival showcases about 400 works of art in iconic venues throughout the town, inviting people to view and engage with art and with artists from more than 12 Southeastern states. Surpassing its attendance goal of 20,000 every year, the festival fills hotels, shops and restaurants in Lake City, and merchants regularly report record sales days.  Perhaps the greatest example of its local economic impact is a new position at the Greater Lake City Community Development Office - Corporate Director of Conventions and Tourism - to manage this emerging potential. With an estimated impact of $5.4 million, ArtFields has become a vehicle for economic revitalization, artistic expression and community pride in Lake City.
South Carolina's Hospitality Employee of the Year is Dorothy Stewart of the
Pictured left to right are Jayne Scarborough, Executive Director of the Olde English District; HEY winner Dorothy Stewart, Gov. McMaster and SCPRT Director Duane Parrish.
Hilton Garden Inn in Rock Hill. As house person for the hotel, Stewart delivers a level of hospitality that makes guests feel at home and inspires the rest of the hotel staff. Her day begins at 3 a.m. when she cleans the lobby and all public spaces in the hotel, and she remains busy throughout the day filling in where needed and supporting the hotel staff. Co-workers say her positive attitude, commitment to excellence and her smile are contagious, creating a genuinely warm and welcoming environment for everyone. Stewart was named Employee of the Month at the hotel at least once per year in the past five years, and won it twice in 2010. In 2013 she was the hotel's Employee of the Year. And in 2017, she was bestowed the prestigious Hospitality Employee of the Year award for the entire state.
Tourism is now a $20.2 billion industry in South Carolina
Tourism in South Carolina is now a $20.2 billion industry that supports one in 10 jobs and generates $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenues, according to figures released in February by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.  The figures represent a 6.1 percent increase in tourism activity in 2015 over 2014, and demonstrate a fourth consecutive record year of growth in South Carolina.
"This growth was the result of increased consumer confidence boosted by a favorable economy, including lower gas prices," said Duane Parrish, SCPRT Director, during remarks delivered at the South Carolina Governor's Conference on Tourism and Travel in Spartanburg. "Add to that the enormous appeal of South Carolina's destinations and a tourism industry that promotes these places, and you have a formula for significant economic impact."
While there was moderate growth in domestic visitor spending in 2015, double-digit growth was reported for international visitor spending (12.5 percent) and capital investments (25 percent.)

Even more growth expected for 2016
Final, comprehensive estimates of tourism's 2016 impact in South Carolina will be available in early 2018, but recent indicators suggest it was another great year.
Growth in statewide hotel occupancy (3.2 percent) and average daily rates (3.9 percent) produced a 2016 RevPAR increase of 7.2 percent over 2015, outpacing growth in the South Atlantic region and the nation as a whole. South Carolina's RevPAR for 2016 was 54 percent greater than it was in 2010 even though the number of statewide hotel rooms has grown steadily every year.
Improved air access to South Carolina from both traditional and new domestic consumer markets contributed to growth in statewide deplanements of 6 percent in 2016.
SCPRT consumer research suggests the agency's advertising efforts have generated more than 600,000 trips to off-the-beaten-path and undiscovered destinations in South Carolina in the past year.
Also at the conference, Parrish unveiled a tourism asset archive of more than 100 hours of HD video and more than 3,000 images, which can be used for television spots and other tourism promotion. The project was in partnership with the South Carolina Association of Tourism Regions, and it represents the most comprehensive catalog of visual assets the agency has ever managed.
Parrish also outlined the challenges facing state parks after natural disasters struck the state in the fall of 2016; provided a sneak peek into new welcome centers at I-77 south in Fort Mill and I-95 north in Hardeeville, and unveiled the new trails website at, a GPS-integrated site that allows users to access information on the trail or at home, and allows them to interact with trail owners.
Cheraw State Park featured in the new TV series "The Sinner"

Production for the pilot for "Sinner," a USA Network crime drama series, shot for 15 days in the Charleston area and in Cheraw State Park. In fact, the beach scenes from the trailer were from the state park.
The series stars Jessica Biel as Cora Bender, a troubled mother, who decided to end her life, but instead stabs a man to death in full view of his friends and family. There seems no reason, and Cora is determined to keep the motivation for her actions hidden. When taken into custody, she confesses, wanting it left at that, coming up with a tissue of lies when pressed for more detail. However, that isn't enough for police commissioner Rudolf Grovian (Bill Pullman,) who embarks on a determined hunt for the real reason behind Cora's sudden frenzy, despite her desperate evasions and lies. It turns into a hunt that leads him to the revelation of one young woman's private, hellish past.
USA Network has not released air dates for the series yet.
SC Has a New Trails Website

A collaborative effort between SCPRT and the South Carolina Recreation and Parks Association led to the development of a new trails website at  The new site is a GPS-integrated, multi-platform website that allows users to access content easily, whether they are on their home PC or out on the trail.
The new site features an enhanced search function that allows users to search by trail use, geographic location, and difficulty using either the search engine or by navigating the site's map. It's all inclusive, offering information on equestrian, walking, biking, ATV and water trails.
In addition to basic trail information, the website also provides health and wellness-focused information for each of the trails. The new trails website has also improved the flow of information between trail owners and trail users... essentially providing real time content management and greater opportunities for user interaction.
It also allows trail owners to create special alerts that indicate any closed sections or highlight newly opened sections of a trail.
The website will be managed by SCRPA.
SCPRT's Chief of Staff, Amy Duffy, Awarded the Order of the Palmetto
Amy Duffy, the chief of staff for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, was presented with the prestigious Order of the Palmetto in February for exceptional service to the state and to the tourism industry.  The order was authorized by former Gov. Nikki Haley in January before she accepted a position as Ambassador to the United Nations from President Donald Trump.
Duffy, who, in 1987, was one of the first students from the University of South Carolina to win an outstanding tourism student award, has worked in a leadership capacity with the agency for more than 27 years.  Having begun her service a few weeks before Hurricane Hugo struck Charleston in 1989, Duffy quickly became a key figure in the critical relationship between the agency and an industry that includes destination marketing organizations, hoteliers, restaurant owners and attractions. 

The Order of the Palmetto is the highest honor the governor can bestow upon a civilian in South Carolina.
Featured This Month!

Peach Rum, Mocha Moonshine and other Ice Cream ... YUM!

Among the stories featured in February on is a post about the emerging demand for alcohol infused food, like ice cream. The story highlights JB's Pr%f, a relatively new company based in Columbia that produces a wide variety of ice cream blended with bourbon, rum and moonshine.  The story also mentions distilleries and breweries that are crafting bourbon coffees, beer milkshakes and vodka popsicles.
For more on the story, click here.
Other stories posted in February give an insider's peek at destinations and experiences across the state, which invites travelers to discover more about South Carolina.
South Carolina's Beer, Wine and Spirits Festivals
South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism
1205 Pendleton Street | Columbia, SC 29201