They're avid beachgoers with an appreciation for architecture and history, a penchant for golf and a taste for fine food.

The British, it turns out, share some common traits with many Lowcountry residents.

Separated by an ocean, the two cultures are set to get better acquainted starting April 4, when British Airways launches nonstop service between Charleston International and London's Heathrow Airport.

Local and state officials have already dubbed the twice-weekly flight — South Carolina's first regularly scheduled transatlantic commercial route — a "game changer."

In addition to serving as a gateway to Heathrow's 130 other worldwide destinations, the new service announced Thursday creates a direct path between the Holy City and its strongest market for foreign visitors. 

Charleston consistently welcomes more travelers from the United Kingdom than any other overseas destination, said Explore Charleston CEO Helen Hill.

Well before the British Airways flight was on the horizon, she said, representatives from her marketing organization were heading across the pond to promote the Lowcountry at international trade shows in the U.K.

British travelers have responded, according to Duane Parrish, director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. He said they consistently rank either first or second for the largest share of the state's 250,000 total annual overseas visitors.

British culture and history is woven into the city of Charleston, even its name. It was named for King Charles II of England. The settlement started as "Charles Town," which was later shortened to Charleston. 

"There's always been a direct connection between Charleston and the U.K.," Parrish said. "Now there's a direct flight connection." 

Londoners and Charlestonians also share common values, said Lou Hammond, founder of the public relations firm Lou Hammond Group, which works with Explore Charleston and has clients in the U.K.

Most importantly, they both value history and preservation, she said.

Sign up for our new business newsletter

We're starting a weekly newsletter about the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina. Get ahead with us - it's free.


"Because of who they are, we have a natural partnership, and they have kept so much of what we like about them," Hammond said. "They’ve continued to be British."

She also noted that the profile of the British traveler is likely different from the average U.S. domestic tourist. Since just getting to Charleston will require them to spend more than $1,000 on air transportation alone, they're likely to spend more during their stays. 

International travelers, on average, also tend to book longer trips and travel to nearby destinations, Parrish said. So the new service increases the likelihood that the new flight will help drive traffic to Columbia, Hilton Head Island, Myrtle Beach and other destinations in the state, he said.

Parrish said South Carolina delivers on five key areas that interest British travelers: history, architecture, beaches, golf and food. 

European interest in the South Carolina culinary scene has been elevated by visits abroad by some of state's top chefs and by international food writers who have attended local food festivals.

Advertising campaigns promoting the new offering have already launched in some British publications, Hill said, and social media posts using the hashtag #LHRtoCHS are circulating online. 

She said the immediate focus is getting the word out about the flight, but Explore Charleston is in the process of developing a more detailed marketing plan for promoting Charleston to U.K. travelers. 

Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

Emily Williams is a business reporter at The Post and Courier, covering tourism and employment. She is also the author of the weekly Business Headlines newsletter. Before moving to Charleston, her byline appeared in The Boston Globe.