MYRTLE BEACH — Gas prices in South Carolina are expected to rise above $3 a gallon, but officials say tourism shouldn’t suffer until they reach about $3.50.

Brendan Byrnes of AAA Carolinas tells The Sun News of Myrtle Beach that South Carolinians can expect to pay more than $3 for most of this year.

But he says even an increase of 40 cents a gallon is small compared with what tourists spend on food and lodging.

Brad Dean with the Myrtle Area Chamber of Commerce says tourists aren’t affected until gas prices hit about $3.50. He says at that point, they may shorten their stays and limit discretionary spending.

The more than $18 billion tourism industry is one of the largest in the state.