Recession Slugs South Carolina Tourism

After nearly two decades of steady growth, South Carolina's tourism industry suffered a major blow in 2009 thanks to the Great Recession, the Associated Press reported last week, citing new data released by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The data — which are just now being released because the state revised its method of measuring tourism impact, which meant the figures took longer than usual to compile — show an 8 percent decline in South Carolina tourism during the thick of the economic downturn, with a total economic impact of $14 billion, approximately $1 billion less than the year prior.

By comparison, the state enjoyed average tourism growth of 4 percent per year between 1990 and 2008, the only exception being 2002, when tourism declined by approximately half of 1 percent in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"I don't know that anybody expected it in any sector of the economy," Marion Edmonds, a spokesperson for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, told the Associated Press, referring to the downturn. "Tourism nationally, internationally and in South Carolina has been a strong performer and a performer that has tended to perform about the average."

Although 2010 and 2011 data have not yet been released, Edmonds said South Carolina's tourism industry has made a steady rebound in the past 18 months, such that the 8 percent decline already has been recovered.