More is always better as Tourism Industry officials are always looking for strategies to increase the number of visitors to South Carolina, and the development of the African- American niche is one such strategy with promise. The Wando- Huger CDC is presenting its 5th SC African American Tourism Conference where it explores this economic potential. The conference, which takes place October 1st at the Beatty Center, College of Charleston, is focusing on the potential economic impact this niche can have on the State. The visitor economy boasts a $20-Billion-dollar economic impact on the state, with $6 Billion dollars coming from Charleston. The African- American niche of this sector can add millions of additional visitors coming to this state and thus increase the industry’s economic impact on the state. The potential is there, perhaps more so than anywhere else in the nation, because in Charleston, and South Carolina we are rich in spiritual, cultural, and entrepreneurial traditions. This potential has been stifled by the failure of local and state governments and regional visitor bureaus to collaborate, and strategize with African- American businesses, and non- profits concerning this niche. The process of removing this obstacle begins with the convening of the annual African- American Tourism Conferences, whose goals are to 1) Educate tourism industry officials about the benefits of investing into the development of this niche, and 2) strategize on the future growth and development of this niche of the industry.
Millions of New Visitors Means More Money for Everyone!
In 1998, the Governor’s office reported that approximately 2,100,000 African-American visitors travel to South Carolina destinations annually, representing 6.6 percent of the state’s total visitation. They spent an estimated $280 million annually, which supported 4,800 jobs and contributed $21.5 million in local and state taxes. These numbers were recorded in 1998 when Tourism’s economic impact was only $13 Million. Today that impact has grown to $20 Billion dollars, and with it the economic impact generated by African- American visitors. Overall, South Carolina has a 5% share of the U.S. African-American travel market, ranking 13th among the 50 states, but it lags behind other Southern States in successfully developing this market. According to the US Travel Data center, more than half of the 33.1 million African-Americans in the U.S. live in Southern states, and are much more likely to travel in the region (63%), compared to travelers overall (39%). We can draw more visitors and their dollars with the enticement of this niche, but first we must invest attention and resources as local and state governments, and regional visitor bureaus.
Investment by Local/State Government or Visitor Bureaus
The state has invested $375 million dollars via governmental and quasi- governmental entities in the state’s other tourism sectors or niches which has resulted in the industry’s recent feats as it relates to growth and increased economic impact. The investment of the public agencies comes in the form of funding economic impact studies, and funding of marketing campaigns that include advertising buys in national and international markets. State Senator Marlon Kimpson worked with SCPRT to fund an economic impact study to focus on this niche. Preliminary results will be reported at this year’s conference. Cities around the country are using tax dollars to set up minority tourism networks linking minority vendors with consumers, including New Orleans, Atlanta, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Portland. A number of areas have notable African-American heritage programs including Atlanta, Alabama, Washington D.C. and Boston (the Black Heritage Trail). Traditionally, a strong local African-American culture, good air transportation, a large supply of first-class hotel accommodations and a large volume of meeting space have characterized the top cities for African-American conventions, reunions, and visitors. Sounds like Charleston to me!
The Annual African- American Tourism Conference is designed to show tourism Industry leaders how this niche can grow the overall industry by attracting millions of additional visitors interested in the African- American history and culture of our state. A timely synergetic investment by local/ state government, and regional visitor bureaus can serve as the catalyst to achieve this economic benefit. We have the rich Gullah traditions alive and well in the historic churches, historic schools, existing and potential businesses within our borders to provide locals and visitors an experience that will educate their minds, and touch their souls. Join The Wando- Huger, CDC on September 27th at 9am at the Avery Research Center, College of Charleston so that we may strategize within the framework of a think- tank of ideas, stratagem, and resources for the development and advancement of the African- American Tourism sector in the state of South Carolina.
Kwadjo Campbell, firstname.lastname@example.org or 864.270.3784