tourism

Laurie Helms / City of Rock Hill

Rock Hill’s shiny new Sports & Event Center was all set to be a big deal. It was just slated to open at a colossally unfortunate time – March, 2020.

To be fair, it did open, briefly. There was a soft launch; a few events happened. But the city’s newest economic driver, a facility humming with revenue-raking sports and contests, ringed by businesses and restaurants poised to make a killing, never got its hoopla-launch. COVID-19 shut the center’s doors for two months, before it even had a chance to prop them open.

Owner Steven Niketas (far right) looks out from his empty restaurant "Stellas" in Charleston.
Victoria Hansen/ SC Public Radio

Vacant parking spaces stretch on, along empty sidewalks in downtown Charleston.  A lone man drags his luggage as he easily crosses typically bustling King Street.  It’s quiet; too quiet.

This is Charleston post coronavirus.

Down the street off upper King, the owner of Stella's Restaurant Steven Niketas breaks a sweat.  He’s anxious about the recent, emergency order from the governor closing restaurants and bars statewide.

Volvo Car Open on Daniel Island.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

You know it’s spring in Charleston when the cars are thick with yellow pollen, as well as  a colorful array of out of state license plates.  Porta- Potties line the streets, novice runners sport bright, new shoes and college kids seeking sun and warmth stretch out behind the beach dunes.  Typically, the signs appear in April, alongside two annual events; the Cooper River Bridge Run and the Volvo Car Open.

Food tourists get good food and a history lesson during a food tour on Columbia's Main Street.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

While most folks know that tourism is one of South Carolina’s top industries, many do not know that food tourism is a growing phenomenon around the state.

These volleyball enthusiasts at Folly Beach are playing on 18 percent less sand than was on the beach prior to the historic floods and high tides of Oct 4, 2015.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

In October of 2015, Hurricane Joaquin tore 18% of the sand from Folly Island.  The tide pulled much of it downstream as well as deeper into the ocean, creating sand bars.  For several areas along the coast in Charleston, there's now less real estate for families to pitch their umbrella, this coming summer.  South Carolina Beach Advocates, a group devoted to the preservation of beaches in the state, has requested beach re-nourishment funds from the federal government two years earlier than it normally would due to erosion. Re-nourishment means bringing in more sand from somewhere else.

A Myrtle Beach Motel sign
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  With the end of summer and the onset of fall and winter, people return from summer vacations to their normal routines. Though logic might suggest that a summer destination like Myrtle Beach may all but shut down in the winter, a local vacation promoter and a restaurateur paint a different scene. While one set of visitors to the Grand Strand does leave, others take their places. As we discover in this week’s South Carolina Focus, the audience for Myrtle Beach’s attractions doesn’t disappear in winter, it morphs into a different group with different expectations of the noted beach town’s amenities.