Tourism delivers a $7 billion economic impact and another $2.2 billion in labor impact. That economic impact – totaling nearly $7 billion – is greater than the entire national gross product of numerous nations.
Tourism impacts the community in other ways. Tourism accounts for more than half of the jobs along the Grand Strand. Those employees use their wages to purchase goods and services, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, healthcare and entertainment. The money invested into our local economy by tourists circulates throughout our economy several times over, providing an ongoing economic impact that would disappear entirely without tourism.
Tourists also pay taxes. Transaction taxes collected from tourists include sales tax, hospitality fees, fuel tax, accommodations tax and education tax. Some tourists decide to relocate here, and purchase a home. Other tourists invest in investment properties and/or second homes.
Many businesses throughout the Grand Strand enjoy a balance of customers that include both tourists and residents. This includes retail outlets, grocery stores, entertainment venues and transportation providers. Ultimately, these tourism-dependent businesses need other service which is paid for in part by tourist dollars.
Likewise, employees in the tourism industry use their wages to make purchases throughout the Grand Strand. Even though a business may not think of itself as benefitting from tourism, the indirect benefits of tourism impact nearly every business along the Grand Strand.
Tourists use much of the same infrastructure and services that residents use, including roads, bridges, highways, airports, police/fire protection, medical services, etc. In an area like the Grand Strand, our average tourist population nearly equals the permanent population. During peak season, the total population (visitor and resident combined) can more than double. No doubt, a growing tourism industry requires adequate investment and maintenance of our local infrastructure and public services.
The positive impact of tourism on infrastructure and public services benefits everyone – residents, tourists and businesses. Without tourism, the area would not be able to expand publicly-owned facilities, like the Myrtle Beach Convention Center or the Myrtle Beach International Airport. Without tourism, the area would not be able to fund new road projects, including RIDE I & RIDE II. Without tourism, the area would not be able to fund much of the planned expansion of educational facilities. Without tourism, the burden of paying for police protection, fire protection, emergency management and emergency medical services would fall entirely upon the local residents, ultimately reducing the scope and perhaps the quality of service.
Tourists help pay for infrastructure and services that everyone benefits from. It is true that tourism requires an additional investment, but that investment pays off each and every day for our local residents.
Most people associate tourism with hourly jobs in the service sector, and there’s no doubt that tourism is accountable for thousands of jobs locally. What’s often overlooked are the management jobs that are a part of the tourism industry. We see desk clerks and maids, but don’t notice the managers, supervisors, accountants and marketers that work in a hotel or resort. We see waiters, bartenders and cooks but don’t notice the team of managers, chefs, accountants and supervisors that run a restaurant. We see flight attendants and counter attendants but don’t notice the pilots, auditors, engineers and other professionals that run airlines. While tourism does create hourly jobs, it also supports and sustains an overlooked corps of managers and other professionals that play an integral role.
Beyond the direct employment within businesses that serve tourists, the impact of tourism spreads well beyond the traditional definition of tourism. Many industries exist to support businesses within the tourism industry: advertising agencies, accounting firms, distributors, furniture makers, etc.
Public funding of tourism promotion is quite common. In fact, most tourism destinations invest far more public funds in destination promotion than private funds, with many destination marketers receiving 70% or more of their funding from public funds. The Grand Strand has historically seen a larger investment by private industry in destination promotion than most other destinations.
Public funds are typically used to promote a destination, such as the entire Grand Strand. Individual businesses are responsible for marketing their own business, but destination marketers must first create interest in visitation before an individual business can effectively market itself. From an industry perspective, this is no different than the Department of Agriculture spending funds promoting agricultural products, the Lottery Commission promoting the Education Lottery, or the Department of Commerce promoting business opportunities in our state.
There’s no doubt the Grand Strand is fortunate to be home to exceptional amenities and attractions, most notably our beaches. And while most visitors who choose to vacation here rank the beach as the most popular draw, research confirms that the non-beach amenities --- restaurants, attractions, golf courses, entertainment venues, retail outlets, etc. --- are what differentiates our destination and make it so popular. Otherwise, the Grand Strand would be just another vacation destination with no more visitors than any other beach destination.
To build the appeal of the destination, the non-beach amenities must be effectively marketed. Visitors who have never been to the Grand Strand are often surprised to learn just how much the area offers. Good marketing builds the awareness and desirability of a vacation destination. Once the consumer is interested in visiting, individual businesses can then begin to market themselves to the tourists. Destination marketing is essential to growing and sustaining tourism.