Some CARES money could go toward bringing tourists to South Carolina
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Next week, South Carolina lawmakers could be deciding where some of the nearly $2 billion in federal money from the CARES Act will be going.
Last week, a panel of senators approved some recommendations. Some of those include $500 million for the state insurance trust fund, money to expand rural broadband access and a money to purchase PPE for a state-managed stockpile.
Some money could also be used for marketing campaigns at the state's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT).
After a difficult couple of months, South Carolina's tourism industry is slowly working towards a comeback. SCPRT Director Duane Parrish said, "This is a crawl, walk, run process for us."
According to Parrish there are signs that the industry is improving, he said occupancy at South Carolina hotels has outperformed other Southeastern states over the last few weeks.
He said, "We think with the outdoor activity in our state: the beaches, lakes, rivers and parks, we have places people want to be this summer."
To try to help bring in more tourists, accelerateSC and the Senate Re-Open SC Select Committee okayed a possible fund for a marketing campaign. The campaign would be focused on tourists within a 350-mile radius from the Palmetto State Parrish said.
In years past, South Carolina has focused on the Northeast and Midwest to market the state's mountains, beaches and cities. Parrish said because of the decrease in tourists flying into the state, they are now they are honing in their efforts to focus on people within driving distance.
He said one of their recent studies shows 70%of people they've surveyed are willing to travel. "I want South Carolina to get more than it's fair share of that 70%," Parrish said. "That's why we need extra marketing money. It's time to double down. Bring as many people as we can to get to bring this industry back to its feet. Nothing will lower unemployment faster than getting heads back in the beds in the hospitality industry."
Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) said anything that can be done to help the tourism industry is a good thing. He also said you need to make sure to have plenty of COVID-19 testing capacity.
"Information empowers. Information instills confidence. The more we can ramp up testing. The more we can make voluntary testing available in those tourism areas -- you're going to have a degree of confidence," Sen. Davis.
Parrish said the accelerateSC group recommended SCPRT receive $40 million as a result of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.