African-American tourists represent 12% of the tourism market and are responsible for a whopping $2.4 billion in economic impact for South Carolina, an impact that is associated with approximately 26,000 jobs and $800 million in labor income. These are just a few of the findings from a study recently completed by University of South Carolina’s SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism. The study, jointly funded by the SmartState Center and South Carolina Parks, Recreation & Tourism, employed a mixed method approach that included an inventory of African-American attractions, in-depth interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders, and surveys of current, latent, and potential visitors.
The inventory found nearly 500 cultural sites but many are in need of repair, lack updated infrastructure and technology, and are poorly promoted. The focus group and interview participants acknowledged a need for investment in product development, followed by improved marketing, and recommended a more accurate portrayal of history at these sites. Stakeholders also suggested that racial issues are still prevalent in South Carolina that inhibit the growth and success of African-American tourism. There was a perceived lack of support, funding, and promotion at the state and local level, and the need was recognized for collaboration between organizations working on African-American tourism.