More people visiting Charleston, attending local events

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - It's already shaping up to be a huge spring and summer for Lowcountry tourism, whether for golf or tennis, high fashion or wildlife buffs.

Tourism season started with a roar at Southeastern Wildlife Expo. Up to 38,000 people came out and studies show they were big spenders.

"Our survey to visitors shows a jump in spending. Last year it was $183 per day per person. This year it was $194 per day per person, $11 increase," College of Charleston tourism analysis expert Bing Pan said.

Pan says events in Charleston are attracting more visitors and generating more spending in the area each year for three reasons.

"Increased reputation of the festival, increased reputation for Charleston as a place, and increased access, easier access," Pan said.

Flowertown Festival attracted an estimated 250,000 people with an estimated $22 million economic impact. About 44,000 runners registered for Cooper River Bridge Run. Charleston Fashion Week broke records with more than 7,000 attendees at evening shows or daytime style events.

Wine and Food Festival says it increased attendance from 19,000 last year to 21,000 this year, with an economic impact of $7 million last year.

"We do expect our impact to be north of that. The guests that come into the festival each year they stay in hotels. They dine at the restaurants. They do some shopping. They typically are here for two or three nights at a time," communications director Ashley Zink said.

Tourism experts say one of the largest events in the area with the highest economic impact hasn't even taken place yet. Spoleto festival attracts visitors worldwide for events for a two week time span.

"Spoleto may be the biggest because they have multiple events. They also attract a larger clientele, guests with a larger household income," Pan said.

This summer, tourism experts say the Charleston area will be even busier. Pan says the PGA championship on Kiawah is by far the largest event ever to come to the area, and he expects the event to really boost the local economy over the week it's here in August.

Several of these events and festivals work with the College of Charleston to compile attendance numbers and expected economic impact. These studies are used to help event organizers improve and plan for next year.

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