Charleston area sees record-breaking year for tourism in 2022

The economic impact of tourism on the greater Charleston area hit a record high in 2022 at $12.8 billion, which is nearly a quarter of the overall regional econ
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 5:10 PM EDT|Updated: May. 30, 2023 at 8:59 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The economic impact of tourism on the greater Charleston area hit a record high in 2022 at $12.8 billion, which is nearly a quarter of the overall regional economy.

The report “Estimation of Tourism’s Economic Impacts in the Greater Charleston Area, 2022″ from the College of Charleston’s Office of Tourism Analysis states 2022′s earnings were a 21% increase over 2021.

The report gets its findings by looking at visitor volume in Charleston County and by conducting an ongoing survey that asks visitors how much money they spend and how they’re spending it while they’re visiting.

“When we looked back at 2022, we saw some modest growth in terms of the number of visitors, so we were up about 6% from the year before 2021, and about 3% from where we’d been in 2019,” Daniel Guttentag, the director of College of Charleston’s Office of Tourism Analysis, said. “But then compounding this slow increase in visitors, we saw increases in the amount that these visitors are spending and then further compounding that we also see the secondary effects of all that economic activity as well.”

Guttentag said this means the area is attracting “high value” visitors, which means the destination gets more “bang for their buck” on every visitor.

“Our visitors are spending more money than ever, but the increase in the number of people that are coming here it’s minimal, and that’s exactly where we want to be, is having a larger span which supports more jobs, more high paying jobs, yet we don’t have that mass visitation that some other destinations have to deal with,” Explore Charleston’s Board of Governors Chair John LaVerne said.

The hotel industry also had a record-breaking year in Charleston, reporting 4.85 million room nights were sold. That is an increase of 4% from the previous record in 2019.

“We saw visitors, really in 2022, that were still coming more on the leisure side,” Dan Blumenstock, the director of hotels for Lowcountry Hotels, said. “They were coming with family trips, trips to the beach, even enjoying downtown Charleston the shopping that we have and different tourist attractions. We’re excited in 2023 we’re seeing the comeback of the more corporate traveler.”

The data shows Charleston is doing better than even before the pandemic, and people want to travel more than ever before.

“We are very blessed to be in Charleston, South Carolina that’s for sure,” Blumenstock said. “The Charleston region overall has really fared even better.”

More people are working in the industry than ever before, according to the report, which shows over 51,000 are employed.

LaVerne said the goal is to foster livability, sustainability, and responsible economic development in our community, and the quality of life for residents is a crucial part of the industry’s success.

“While tourism’s absolutely important as far as the number of jobs and the economic impact, kind of the metric, the judge of our success is truly making sure that we preserve the quality of life for our local residents,” LaVerne said.