Patriots Point’s aggressive marketing plan appears to be paying off.
The Mount Pleasant naval and maritime museum brought in 9 percent more paid visitors for the fiscal year that ended June 30 over the same period last year. Nearly 253,000 people bought a ticket for the tourist attraction on Charleston Harbor.
Admission revenues followed suit, rising 9 percent as well, to more than $3.9 million.
Gift shop sales were up 4 percent to more than $1.7 million while parking fees grew 6 percent to nearly $561,000 and camping revenues climbed 12 percent, approaching $1.7 million.
“We are really doing good,” said Darwin Simpson, chairman of Patriots Point Development Authority’s finance committee.
He added that the new fiscal year is off to a robust start, with $400,000 added to the state agency’s cash account in July, bringing the total to nearly $5 million.
“There were only three days in July that we did not see more revenue than last year,” said Mac Burdette, Patriots Point’s executive director.
He said August has been a solid month so far as well.
Patriots Point’s board chairman Ray Chandler attributed the increase in tourists and revenue to improvements being made in the war relics on display.
The agency, which receives no annual state funding, decided more than a year ago to pump more money into marketing and adopted the catchy theme, “Walk in the Steps of Heroes,” seen on billboards and other promotional venues.
Patriots Point said it’s also in the throes of upgrading its static war-time artifacts into interactive displays to engage tourists and make their visit more memorable.
“We are on the right path in many areas,” Chandler said.
Patriots Point hopes to raise more money and more interest in its collection of old warships to help pay for much-needed improvements to the aging World War II-era aircraft carrier Yorktown.
An environmental assessment completed earlier this year found no imminent threats from oils and other residues left in holding tanks on the 70-year-old vessel. A structural analysis of the ship is up next. By some accounts, it could take nearly $81 million to repair the ship over several years.
Patriots Point officials hope to have the structural analysis in hand by next fall, with some repairs underway in about five years, according to board member Eddie Taylor.
The work is meant to keep the museum ship moored in the harbor for decades to come so future generations can experience an old warship.
Patriots Point’s increase in visitors dovetails with a report this week that Charleston County hotels witnessed a “banner” month in July with increased occupancy and higher daily rates over the same month last year.
The Charleston area is reaping the benefits of an improving economy and being named the top tourist destination in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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