Experience Columbia SC, the Destination Marketing Organization for the Columbia region, announced that tourism is thriving again, to the tune of 15.1 million visitors in 2021.
The latest numbers were revealed at a media breakfast held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center Wednesday. President and CEO Bill Ellen said they show that tourism here is back and in full swing.
“Thanks to a successful recovery strategy and recovery funding from our stakeholders, our region welcomed 15.1 million visitors in 2021,” Ellen said. “But that doesn’t just happen on its own. We are telling our story in many ways and driving visitors to the destination. Our staff are experts in the tourism industry, staying on top of trends in the meetings, sports and leisure markets. And we couldn’t do it without our hospitality partners, stakeholders and funding partners.”
Tourism in the Columbia region has a $2.4 billion economic impact, generates $120 million in state and local taxes and is responsible for 21,000 jobs. There are also 5.4 million overnight visitors. These statistics, compiled by Longwoods International and Tourism Economics, are above pre-pandemic numbers in 2019.
Columbia SC Tourism is responsible for various components of promoting and marketing tourism throughout Richland County, Lexington County and the City of Columbia. It is made up of three branches –Experience Columbia SC (which is responsible for the Convention and Visitors Bureau), Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and Experience Columbia SC Sports.
Executives from each department were on hand to discuss strategies used to sustain the industry through the pandemic and beyond. In just over one year, the organization hosted 32 site visits with meeting planners, attended 34 tradeshows, hosted 14 travel writers and influencers and 38 sporting events.
Below are a few of the key metrics from each of the departments in 2021.
“The convention center broke an all-time record for booking revenue, we have 20 locals participating in the Columbia SC Ambassador Program and PR campaigns like the Pimento Cheese Passport and Reconstruction Trail engage visitors and locals alike,” Ellen said.
The organization’s annual report was also released and includes a breakdown of statistics and strategies by department. View it online at experiencecolumbiasc.com.
“Columbia is not a drive through, fly over city,” Ellen said. “We’re an experience all on our own and have just as much, if not more, to offer than our competitors when it comes to destination assets.”