About four years after revising its tourism management strategy, the city of Charleston is checking in with residents on its progress.
During a public meeting next month, city officials, led by the Department of Livability and Tourism, will present updates and answer questions about the status of the objectives.of the 2015 plan.
The Department of Livability and Tourism was formed because of recommendations in the 2015 iteration of the plan, which the city will take a deeper look at on April 10.
In all, three city departments — Livability and Tourism; Planning, Preservation and Sustainability; and Traffic and Transportation — will contribute to the discussion. Among the topics will be hotel development, transportation, parking and short-term rentals.
People who attend the meeting will have an opportunity to ask questions or raise concerns, too, said Dan Riccio, the director of the Livability and Tourism Department.
Winslow Hastie, the president of the Historic Charleston Foundation, said his organization is looking forward to discussing many of the tourism plan's elements with city officials. The foundation has been a vocal participant in the debate over hotel development in Charleston, most recently asking the city's zoning board to reconsider its approval of a 225-room downtown hotel.
Some notable issues the group hopes will be discussed, Hastie said, are the accommodations overlay, which designates where hotels can be built, the enforcement of Charleston's short-term rental ordinance and the regulation of walking tours.
Charleston's first tourism management plan was adopted more than 40 years ago in 1978. It set the groundwork for many of the city's policies related to how tourists and residents move throughout the downtown area, such as restrictions for tour bus and carriage routes, a parking permit system for residents and the introduction of shuttle buses.
Then, after seeing a substantial amount of tourism growth in the 1980s, the plan was re-evaluated in 1994. Congestion and parking were still primary concerns, but the update also took more of a long-range view, addressing concerns about the city's image. That plan was tweaked again in 1998.
A major update to the plan wasn't initiated again until late 2013, when then-Mayor Joe Riley assembled a 27-member committee to revise it. That group worked with staffers for more than a year before bringing the updated plan to City Council for approval.
The end product was a 138-page document that laid out objectives within five main categories: tourism management and enforcement; visitor orientation; quality of life; special events; and mobility and transportation.
Specific strategies within those categories were given target months or periods of time for completion.
Among the ongoing strategies was a recommendation to review the city's tourism ordinance. That's something Riccio's department and the city's Tourism Commission have been continuing to work through, he said.
For example, changes to the ordinance which describe more specific insurance requirements for tour vehicles will likely be presented to the commission at its next meeting, and a recent change added language to the city code that relates to the new GPS-enabled system for carriage horse waste.
One of the most significant tourism-related challenges facing the city today — the regulation of short-term rentals — wasn't even anticipated when the 2015 plan was written, Riccio said.
At the beginning of 2016, about 750 short-term rental units had been opened in Charleston, according to AirDNA, which gathers data on the booking sites Airbnb and HomeAway. Before new rules began to be enforced last year, the city found 2,055 short-term listings.
"This is a living document," Riccio said. "You have to roll with the punches when things change, and you have to adapt."