South Carolina's tourism industry is on the upswing so far this year.
The performance report released last week by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism showed strong growth for hotels, state parks and other attractions for the period stretching from July 2013 to April of this year.
Statewide revenue per available hotel room, a key indicator of demand, was up 10 percent over the year-earlier period, and bustling hotel markets such as Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island saw more than 20 percent gains.
The statewide lodging revenue grew because hotels are selling more room nights and charging higher rates, according to the report.
The average occupancy rate for the state is expected to hover around 70 percent over the next few months.
Attendance to state parks and other attractions also has been a growth factor for the state's tourism industry. Admissions taxes collected from tourist attractions were about $3.6 million and revenue from state parks was about $2.1 million in April, both slight improvements from last April.
Duane Parrish, director of the PRT, attributed some of the growth to "pent-up demand from a harsh winter."
"The snowstorms over the winter and early spring months gave everyone a little 'cabin fever,' particularly our feeder markets," he said.
He added that more than 80 percent of South Carolina's visitors travel by car, and the state has boasted some of the cheapest gas in the country several times this year.
Plus, larger markets such as Charleston, Hilton Head Island, Greenville and Myrtle Beach have more dollars for marketing campaigns, which Parrish said are "paying off."
"Charleston's rise as a world-class destination through its culinary, golf, and history offerings have made it a 'bucket list' destination," he said.
The state report was issued before Travel + Leisure magazine released the findings of its annual reader poll. The survey ranked Charleston as the top tourist destination among U.S. and Canadian cities and No. 2 among all cities worldwide.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail
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