Tourism requires sufficient transportation infrastructure, but tourism also helps to pay for needed infrastructure through a variety of means. Taxes on retail sales, fuel, accommodations, restaurant meals and other purchases help pay for tourism infrastructure along the Grand Strand. Both tourists and residents alike benefit from investments in infrastructure.
Former 1st District SCDOT Commissioner
“In recent years, Horry County has initiated an investment of approximately $1.5 billion in roads and bridges, including Carolina Bays Parkway, Veterans Highway, Grissom Parkway and the widening of Highway 707. By the time the current projects are finished, tourists will have paid for more than one-third of the cost of these roads,” according to Gary Loftus, former SCDOT Highway Commissioner and Director of the BB&T Center for Economic and Community Development.
Danny Isaac, former SCDOT Commissioner for the 1st Congressional District noted “The tourism industry contributes a lot of the money we now use to pave roads and build new highways, and I expect I-73 will be paid for in part by tolls collected from our tourists.”
Here are a few examples of infrastructure projects in which tourism plays a key funding role:
RIDE I was an historic infrastructure program funded by a 1.5% hospitality fee levied on prepared foods (i.e. restaurants) and accommodations. This program began in 1997 and finished in the summer of 2009 with the completion of the Fantasy Harbor Bridge and the Main Street Connector in North Myrtle Beach. This fee funded more than $1 billion of local road projects, including:
RIDE II began on May 1, 2007 and ran for seven years. The now completed project addressed the infrastructure needs not met by RIDE I. Funded by a 1% sales tax on most retail purchases, Horry County receivee $446 million for the project over seven years.
Ride III will be a continuation of Ride I & II; funding is slated to be close to $592 million, and will address projects including:
Our 60-mile oceanfront is undoubtedly the backbone of the Grand Strand tourism industry and continues to be the main draw for millions of our visitors. Protecting our beaches is not just important to tourism, however. Clean, safe, renourished beaches help to maintain the economic lifeline of the Grand Strand and boost property values throughout the area. The scenic beauty and broad appeal of the beach is a key deciding factor of visitors who choose to visit the Grand Strand, according to past surveys. Renourishing the beach on a semi-regular basis helps to solidify property values and ensure that visitors find wide, spacious beaches throughout the destination. The taxes generated by tourism help to pay for this important investment in infrastructure.
The Grand Strand is the busiest vacation destination in America without interstate access. Because the area is a relatively young and small community, the infrastructure needs have increased considerably in recent years as the tourism industry has grown.
The growth in tourism fuels additional infrastruture needs, including interstate connectivity. Once completed, Interstate 73 will connect the Grand Strand and Pee Dee regions to Interstate 95, which runs north-south from New York to Florida. This will provide an alternative hurricane evacuation route and will also enable the region to compete for non-tourism jobs and industries which require convenient access to an interstate highway.
In 2009, the City of Myrtle Beach used tourism-related taxes to fund construction of a new 1.2-mile boardwalk in downtown Myrtle Beach. The boardwalk opened in April 2010 to much acclaim. Thousands of tourists visited the new boardwalk, bringing a surge of business to downtown Myrtle Beach. The new attraction also delivered tremendous regional, national and international publicity for the destination.
The boardwalk has also helped to attract new businesses and attractions, including the 200-foot SkyWheel Myrtle Beach and LandShark Bar & Grill.
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