Tourism (copy)

Not only Charleston but cities and towns across South Carolina continue to post record tourism spending, according to the latest state figures. File/Wade Spees/Staff

Tourism spending in South Carolina continues to break records, according to the latest figures released Wednesday.

The industry, one of the largest in the state, generated $21.2 billion in economic activity statewide in 2016, a 4.7 percent increase over 2015, said Duane Parrish, director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. 

Parrish provided a report at the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Travel on Hilton Head Island this week.

Last year, he announced tourism accounted for $20.2 billion in spending in 2015. It was the first time that figure crossed the $20 billion threshold.

All of the numbers for 2017 aren't available yet, but indicators hint at even more growth, which would be the fifth consecutive year of tourism expansion in the state, Parrish said.

For instance, year-end hotel revenue last year increased 6.2 percent over 2016, outpacing growth averages nationally and in the South Atlantic region.

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The increases were not only in major tourist destinations such as Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head but in rural or undiscovered areas, Parrish said said. He credited the department’s "Undiscovered South Carolina" marketing campaign anchored by the “Satisfy Your Thirst,” Chef Ambassadors and “Fish in SC” campaigns.

Other events that lured visitors to South Carolina in 2017 included:

  • The solar eclipse in August, which has been described as the state's biggest tourist event ever.
  • The UCI BMX World Championships in Rock Hill.
  • Post-season NCAA basketball tournaments in Greenville and Columbia.
  • Golf outings.
  • Film production, such as the DirectTV series "Mr. Mercedes" and the new "Halloween" movie.

Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.