Breakfast Recap: State of Tourism In Columbia SC
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Since 2004, the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center has welcomed three million visitors and now host approximately 380 events each year.
During COVID-19, over 200 events have been canceled; 60-70 percent of which are rescheduling. Although the convention center has successfully trained employees on safety and the facility is cleaned appropriately, Experience Columbia SC CEO & President Bill Ellen said it will take time to gain the confidence of the public to resume events. And according to a U.S. Travel survey, 60 percent of travelers plan to resume drive travel before the end of year.
Experience Columbia SC is officially the midlands authority for sports and tourism. The convention center is made up of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Columbia Regional Sports Council.
The organization employees 59 people; 48 percent of whom live in Lexington County. Tourism has a $2.1 billion economic impact in this region, bringing 24,000 jobs to the hospitality and tourism sector.
Tourism goes hand in hand with economic impact. If a potential company is looking to move to the Midlands, they will research what there is to do and the quality of life their management staff and employees will have. It is critical that this community is active and marketed well to encourage the economic growth.
The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau’s responsibility is to bring groups, conventions and activities to the region. They partner with over 130 hotels in Lexington and Richland counties to bring groups, meetings, reunions and activities to the area which will book with those hotels. The convention center’s focus is to bring events directly to building, whereas the bureau brings people to the area.
Full funding of the general operations at the Columbia Convention Center comes from the three percent tax on the tourism development fee from hotel accommodations. The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau is funded through accommodations ax as well as from hotel partners paying a two percent destination marketing fee; and the Sports Bureau is funded through accommodations tax, hospitality tax and private fees paid through the hotels. With hotel occupancy currently down the budgets are taking a hit.
South Carolina has taken a major public relation hit which has resulted in states barring travel to the Palmetto State. Currently, Midlands hotels are running at 47.5 percent occupancy with a $73 average rate, down from 62.9 percent with a $91 rate pre-COVID 19. We are higher than the national average at 43 percent, though falling closely behind the state average of 52 percent. Naturally, the coastal region is higher with 62 percent occupancy. Travel on I-95 is back to normal activity pre-COVID, while I-26 and I-20 are 85 percent back to being traveled.
The Bureau of Labor reports that the leisure & hospitality sector has suffered most from February to June at 26.8 percent reduction in employment. In June the lowest impact was to financial services down only 1.1 percent and construction 1.5 percent.
Currently, the Experience Columbia SC team is working on recovery strategies to bring business back.
To learn more about Experience Columbia SC and the Columbia Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, visit https://www.experiencecolumbiasc.com/.