COVID-19’s impact on travel and tourism in Columbia, SC

Downtown Columbia sunset
Columbia sunset | Photo by @cinematic.aerials

We know how much Columbia has to offer since we live, work and play here but what you probably don’t know is how many people visit each year. From prospective students and parents touring UofSC, to visitors during sporting events, to professionals traveling on business + much more, our city sees more tourists than you’d think

This week is National Tourism and Travel Week. During this period of staying home, the travel industry is suffering a devastating loss. In 2018, the local tourism industry accounted for a $2.3 billion impact on the regional economy + supported 24,000 jobs, according to Experience Columbia.

It’s still too soon to tell exactly how much the pandemic will affect tourism in the coming months, but here’s what we know so far:

Between March 29 and April 4, the average occupancy rate of Columbia’s hotels dropped to ~29%. Hotels also saw high cancellation rates for the following week, when many visitors from The Masters would have come to Columbia.

The SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism estimates that the state will lose half of its potential tourism revenue this year. 

While the tourism sector is by no means alone in its suffering – this crisis is making an impact on all areas of our community – in honor of National Tourism and Travel Week, we want to challenge our readers to support our fellow Soda Citizens working in that industry in whatever way they can.

This could be an act as simple as grabbing takeout from your favorite restaurant, or shopping locally for a small gift for a friend (or frontline worker). It could also mean planning that staycation you’ve always dreamed about; booking a stay at a local hotel or buying tickets or gift cards for a local tour or attraction.

Whatever you opt to do, make sure to share it with us by using #COLAtoday on social media to spread your positive message.

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