Sherry Young wasn't about to let bad weather get in the way of her trip to Charleston for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition this weekend.
When she found out her flight from Orlando, Fla., was canceled Wednesday, she hopped on board a semi-truck that was making its way to the Lowcountry with a cabbage delivery.
Her daughter's boyfriend is a truck driver, and when Young found out he was making a trip to Charleston, she said she was happy to share the voyage with an 18-ton load of vegetables.
"I wasn't staying in Orlando if there was any way I could get here," said Young, who safely made it to Charleston on Wednesday night, despite the wintry conditions. "It's my third year coming to SEWE, and I've looked forward to it for nine months. So I just love it and I didn't want to miss it."
Many vendors who had signed up to exhibit at SEWE had to get creative with their travel plans this week, too.
SEWE President and CEO Jimmy Huggins said all but about two vendors have made it to Charleston as planned, despite all the flight cancellations.
"Some of them are getting here late, but they're pretty much all here," Huggins said.
Even Jack Hanna, one of the event's high-profile exhibitors, drove up from Florida with his wife on Wednesday when their flights to Charleston were canceled, Huggins said.
But many other travelers who planned to attend SEWE won't be able to make it to Charleston by the weekend, as the icy conditions still hadn't cleared up in many parts of the country on Friday.
That's bad news for Charleston's tourism industry, which relies on SEWE to boost business during a month that's otherwise pretty slow.
The winter storm that swept through the country this week may have chilled the earnings for local hotels, as room reservations were canceled due to the weather.
"Several hotels reported mid-week group cancellations due to hazardous travel conditions, and many properties saw significant leisure cancellations for this weekend," said Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Charming Inns - the hotel group that manages The Wentworth Mansion, John Rutledge House Inn, Kings Courtyard Inn and Fulton Lane Inn - was one of several local hotel groups that suffered losses due to the winter storm.
"I'm afraid it has affected us dramatically on this because no matter where (guests) are coming from, they've been affected by the weather," said Linn Lesesne, spokeswoman of Charming Inns.
Several guests canceled their weekend reservations at the downtown Charleston hotels, which resulted in a combined loss of about 29 room nights, Lesesne said.
But the hotels had re-booked a little more than half of those room nights as of Friday afternoon, thanks to some extra marketing efforts by the CVB, Lesesne added.
"The CVB has been very proactive in putting ads out in our drive markets that say 'rising temperatures, falling prices,' and it must be working," she said.
The online marketing campaign by the CVB advertises a 60-degree forecast for the weekend and discounts on last-minute hotel bookings.
Michael Tall, president and chief operating officer of Charlestowne Hotels, said the campaign has also helped business bounce back at the group's 13 local hotels.
"We definitely had cancellations for the weekend from people who were concerned about driving," Tall said.
The group's hotels re-booked many of the canceled reservations by Friday, and a major selling point was the emphasis on the warmer weather this weekend, Tall said.
"One of the big things we've done through CVB is to use social media and other marketing efforts to show what the forecast is this weekend. It may have been icy on Wednesday, but it's right back to 60 degrees on Saturday."
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail
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