15.1 million. That’s how many visitors the Soda City welcomed in 2021, according to the latest numbers from Experience Columbia SC — the marketing organization for the Columbia region.
The economic impact of tourism on our region is substantial. It generates $2.4 billion annually, $120 million in state and local taxes, and creates 21,000 jobs.
Compiled by Longwoods Internation and Tourism Economics, the statistics show numbers comparable to pre-pandemic levels of 2019. That year was a record-setting year thanks in part to Colonial Life Arena hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. You may remember, the Soda City went all out.
Experience Columbia SC’s President and CEO Bill Ellen credits recovery strategy and funding from key stakeholders for the 15.1 million visitors.
Key sporting events
- SC High School Football State Championships | Attendees: 20,000
- NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament | Attendees: 18,295
- Battle at BullStreet | Attendees: 9,070
- Chick-fil-A Classic | Attendees: 6,600
Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center’s key events
- Soda City Comic Con | Attendees: 7,500
- USC Darla Moore School of Business 2021 Fall Business Expo | Attendees: 1,200
- SC Music Educators Association | Attendees: 800
Of the 15.1 million visitors, 5.4 million were overnight visitors.
Booking hotel rooms is a large part of Experience Columbia SC’s efforts, generating accommodations tax that feeds increased livability, demand for development, and business development.
Several new hotels have been announced, and one recently opened within walking distance of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Here’s a quick rundown.
- Cambria Hotel (1000 Lady St.) | Opened in July, 2022 | 0.4-mile walk
- Marriott Moxy (1200 Main St.) | Under construction | 0.5-mile walk
- Homewood Suites and Tru Hotel (Corner of Gervais + Williams Streets) | Proposed | 0.6-mile walk
There is talk of more downtown development projects on the Gervais Street side of the convention center, but no concrete plans have been shared.