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Commentary: Short-term rentals benefit both visitors and South Carolinians

Rob Woodul

Rob Woodul

Here in South Carolina, we’re known for our hospitality. The warm welcome everyone receives is one of the many reasons travelers from across the globe are drawn to our state, along with our beautiful landscapes, ideal weather and rich history.

When those tens of millions of visitors come to South Carolina, they inevitably need a place to stay. And while our state is home to some excellent hotels, it is always helpful to offer multiple alternatives.

Consider a family of five, including young children, looking to spend their spring break on the beaches of South Carolina. Not only do they need more space than a typical hotel room would offer, they need it to function like their own home would — with bedrooms, shared common areas for playtime and a kitchen to fix dinner on the nights they can’t make it out to a restaurant. For them and many other families, a short-term rental is exactly the solution they need.

This is quickly becoming the case for more and more visitors who choose to vacation in our state. Demand for short-term rentals in South Carolina has increased by 17% annually since 2018, indicating a growing interest in the convenience, unique amenities and affordability of short-term rentals.

The growth of this segment of our tourism industry doesn’t just benefit visitors — it benefits all South Carolinians, too.

The short-term rental industry has led to 50,231 jobs and more than $1.4 billion in labor income for South Carolinians, according to a recent economic impact study commissioned by S.C. Realtors and produced by the University of South Carolina. The annual economic impact on the state from this industry has reached an estimated $4.2 billion.

These statistics are hard to ignore, especially as our state’s leaders rightly put a heavy focus on economic growth. It would be in the best interest of South Carolina’s economy for us to capitalize on this growing demand for short-term rentals and fortify the positive effects this industry has on other business sectors, particularly in areas that might not otherwise see much tourism activity.

As popularity and demand grow, entrepreneurs are seeking out more places to open up short-term rentals to visitors, creating off-the-beaten-path destinations. Many small towns once grappling with dwindling local business are now flourishing thanks to the rise of short-term rentals bringing more customers into the area.

Despite all these benefits, some local governments, under pressure from a vocal minority, are considering putting burdensome restrictions or even outright bans on short-term rentals, which could have devastating economic consequences.

The tangible impact that the short-term rental market has already had in South Carolina is far too precious to jeopardize. Concerns from local homeowners shouldn’t go unheard, but there are plenty of nuanced ways to ensure visitors and full-time residents of any community can coexist in harmony without hastily enacting extreme measures like banning short-term rentals.

S.C. Realtors are committed to protecting this vital economy, which is why we support legislation filed in the S.C. House of Representatives that would prevent municipalities from enacting blanket restrictions on short-term rentals. House Bill 3253 — sponsored by Reps. Lee Hewitt, R-Murrells Inlet, Jay Kilmartin, R-Columbia, JA Moore, D-North Charleston, and Melissa Oremus, R-Aiken — would help ensure that all parties are operating in a fair and responsible manner while also fostering a positive and welcoming environment for tourists.

The bipartisan support for this bill illustrates the importance of short-term rentals to a wide array of communities. We urge the General Assembly to pass H.3253 to protect the interests of business owners and employees in this sector, as well as our state’s critical tourism economy.

South Carolina’s cities and counties shouldn’t aim to eliminate the very accommodations that are drawing people into our state. If these potential visitors can’t build the vacation they want to in South Carolina, they’ll look to our neighboring states. We’d be wise to continue welcoming visitors with open arms into our communities — and let them have the freedom to choose where they want to stay while they’re here.

Rob Woodul is the president of S.C. Realtors.

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