Some Kiawah Island businesses see boost from PGA Championship, others say ‘it’s a letdown’

Source: Live 5
Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 7:33 PM EDT
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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - Many business owners and managers on Kiawah Island said Thursday they have seen more customers and more dollars coming into their shops and restaurants because of the PGA Championship.

“A lot of foot traffic on and off the island and a lot of interest in terms of dining. It’s been great,” FortyEight Wine Bar And Kitchen’s Matthew Williams said.

“More people out and about and less restrictions, so people are more willing to shop, spend some money and have a little fun,” Margerite and Motte owner Laura Reed said.

Business owners welcomed golf fans with sales, extended hours, and more.

“We’re just trying to capitalize and just get the names out there of local, women-owned businesses, and it’s been a really great day already and it’s Thursday, so we expect the weekend to be super busy,” Noddy owner Helen Tucker said.

Some longtime business managers said this year’s event has exceeded their expectations compared to the PGA Championship’s last appearance on Kiawah Island in 2012.

“In 2012, they didn’t have a lot of infrastructure around here, not as much rather…so that allowed people to go off island in 2012. They would actually just drive by us after the tournament and go to West Ashley or downtown,” Hege’s Restaurant General Manager Scott Hudson said. “But with us this year, we’ve seen a very positive uptick. We were expecting 20 percent, but we are seeing actually a 25 to 30 percent increase.”

However, a bit further off Kiawah Island, other business owners said the event has been a bust after they increased staffing to prepare for what they expected to be a rush of customers this week.

“We’ve been excited about this since we opened in November 2019, and people have been asking us about it for that long,” The Hemingway owner Michael Norwood said. “It’s been a little bit of a letdown.”

Some think traffic from the PGA Championship may be to blame for driving their typical customers past their doors or away from the area altogether.

“People that are renting their houses, I’m sure, just stocked up on groceries, and they don’t want to leave the island because traffic is just a mess out here,” Kinfolk owner Kevin Nierstedt said. “It was just really hard to judge this week. It’s been good business but it’s hard to plan for.”

The true economic impact of the PGA Championship is still unknown with three full days of golf left.

A study from the College of Charleston had estimated a $200 million gain for the Charleston area before the coronavirus pandemic limited capacity on Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.

Half of that was expected to come from direct spending, and it’s unclear just how those limited spectator numbers have changed the estimate.

Meanwhile, the other $100 million value from the projection was set to come from the media and marketing coverage for the event, and officials said that has not changed based on the spectator count.

Kiawah Island’s beauty is being broadcast all over the world with more than 175 hours of live coverage of the PGA Championship.

“It’s a public golf course. So, it’s something that you can watch the best players in golf come compete, and then you can come out and try it yourself,” Championship Director Ryan Ogle said. “To be able to be inclusive like that is a feather in our cap to host our championship at a public golf course.”

Bryan Hunter, the public relations manager for Kiawah Island Golf Resort, believes the exposure gained from the event will pay off for the Lowcountry’s tourism industry.

“The importance of tourism to the entire region economically and having the eyes of the world on, not only Kiawah Island, but on Charleston and the entire Lowcountry and seeing how beautiful it is…I think people will see it and say that looks like the kind of place I want to go visit,” Hunter said. “I think it will have a big impact for a lot of different reasons but certainly the tourism industry in Charleston.”

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