Hotel occupancy and revenue shot up sharply in June, both in the state and the Charleston area, even with hundreds more rooms on the market compared to a year earlier.
Analysts say that's a pretty good indication that the tourism market is still growing.
“I think the signs are good," said Wayne Smith, chairman of tourism and hospitality department at the College of Charelston. "The hotel numbers combined with the airport that were just released are pretty good evidence that it is a healthy tourism market at the moment."
More than 2.1 million people flew in and out of Charleston International Airport during the first six months of this year, a 10 percent increase over last year, according to the Charleston County Aviation Authority.
"Add in the fact that we do have so much more inventory, both hotel and short-term rental market, and these statistics are very good indications that Charleston is performing well," Smith said.
The college's Office of Tourism Analysis reported 673 more hotel rooms in Charleston County at the end of June than a year earlier.
The college reports several metrics for measuring hotel performance: room nights sold, occupancy, average daily room rate and room inventory.
Perrin Lawson, deputy director of the Charleston Area Convention and Bureau, said he pays the most attention to room nights sold, which represents the number of visitors staying in hotel rooms.
"For that metric, every month except January has seen an increase," he said.
The number of rooms sold in Charleston County in June was 10.8 percent more than the same time last year.
Hotel occupancy was down in January because of the severe snowstorm that shut down the Lowcountry. It was rain that caused a drop in May, according to Lawson.
"Lodging demand from the leisure market is increasingly affected by the weather forecast," Lawson said. "For example, during the week that included Memorial Day weekend the forecast called for rain every day. This resulted in lower lodging demand than usual."
The average daily room rate in Charleston County in June was $157.78, compared to $137.28 in South Carolina and $132.66 across the United States.
The state's tourism office tracks the hotel market across the state. Charleston is not the only city where new hotels are going up. Columbia, Greenville, Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head are also experiencing a hotel boom.
Tourism Director Duane Parrish said he pays most attention to RevPAR, revenue per available room. The College of Charleston doesn't publicly report RevPAR, but PRT posts figures for the United States, the Southeast and the state on its website.
RevPAR in South Carolina was down 0.4 percent in May but shot back up 7.0 percent in June. The fact that this June had five Saturdays compared to four in 2017 could have been a factor, Parrish said.
He said he looks more at the year as a whole than month by month. For the year, RevPAR for the state is up 2.1 percent.
"Remember that 2017 was the fifth consecutive record year for RevPAR," he said. "So we’re building on a year that was already a record. A 2 percent growth over a very strong year is very good, especially considering that since 2012, we've had over 6,000 rooms added in South Carolina."
He expects the numbers to be down for August because they will be compared to last August, when the total eclipse drew visitors that broke all previous records.
2018 hotel performance
|Jan||Occupancy||Change||Avg Room Rate||Change||RevPAR||Change||Rooms sold change||Additional rooms|
|Year to Date|