Industry announces record-breaking growth and Gov. McMaster presents annual awards at SC tourism conference

February 14, 2023

Kiawah Island, S.C. – At the South Carolina Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Travel, Gov. Henry McMaster and state tourism director, Duane Parrish, celebrated the success of the tourism industry and presented annual awards to representatives from Charleston, Rock Hill, and Columbia.

“In South Carolina, we are blessed to have the winning combination of unparalleled natural beauty and hardworking people,” said Gov. McMaster. “Our tourism industry protects and shares our natural and manmade treasures from the mountains to the coast, and provides authentic hospitality to our visitors. Congratulations for continuing to shatter records and reach new heights as you help the world discover South Carolina.”

The annual tourism conference provides opportunities for knowledge sharing, networking, and celebrating industry accomplishments. Duane Parrish, director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT), delivered his annual “State of the Industry” address, announcing new record-breaking figures for 2021 and 2022. While the Palmetto State weathered the COVID-19 pandemic better than most other states, 2020 “was a setback,” Parrish said, “but instead of being discouraged, we redoubled our efforts in 2021.”

Those redoubled efforts paid off. By 2021, tourism’s estimated economic impact reached an all-time high of $26 billion, which Parrish credited to strategic marketing, a continued partnership with tourism ambassador Darius Rucker, the PGA Championship in Kiawah followed by the Palmetto Championship at Congaree, and the hard work of destinations and attractions across South Carolina.

The upward trend continued for 2022, welcoming the PGA TOUR back to Congaree for the CJ CUP in South Carolina; continuing the relationship with Darius Rucker, and helping host his Riverfront Revival music festival; attracting powerhouse films and streaming series to the state, like HBO’s Righteous Gemstones, Netflix’s Outer Banks, and Suncoast, a film starring Woody Harrelson and Laura Linney; taking to the airwaves with our Legacy of Courage Civil Rights Trail podcast and new tourism podcast, The Palmetto Porch; launching a third season of our Go for It series with SCETV; and more. Discover South Carolina even took home a 2022 ESTO Mercury Award from US Travel – a top honor for the industry – for the Darius Rucker marketing campaign.

South Carolina Tourism:
Estimated Economic Impact
2019 2020 2021 2022
$24 billion $18.5 billion $26 billion $29 billion

All told, the estimated economic impact of tourism in South Carolina for 2022 was $29 billion. Parrish credited attendees – and all those working in the industry – with the achievement. “The challenges we’ve faced, we have faced together,” he said. “And the success we’ve achieved, we have achieved together. South Carolina’s ‘Tourism Success Story’ is a tale with many authors, and one that I feel both proud and privileged to share with you today.”

Industry Awards*

Gov. McMaster and Director Parrish also presented three coveted awards to distinguished honorees from South Carolina’s tourism industry.

For more information, contact Sam Queen at or 803-767-3568.



*South Carolina Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Travel Awards

  • The Fred Brinkman Award: Named after SCPRT’s longest-serving director, the Brinkman Award is presented periodically to an individual who has demonstrated an enduring and outstanding commitment to improving tourism in the state.
    Winner: Miriam Atria, President and CEO of Capital City Lake Murray Country
    Over her 40-year career, Miriam Atria has worked tirelessly to help the Midlands region reach its full tourism potential, from recruiting championship fishing tournaments to Lake Murray, to launching A Taste of Lake Murray – the region’s signature food event – to bringing the World Food Championship to Columbia in 2022. Through grit, determination, and an undeniable passion, Atria has helped establish Lake Murray as “the jewel of South Carolina,” attracting more visitors and tourism revenues to Lexington, Newberry, Richland, and Saluda counties as well as the City of Columbia.
  • The Governor’s Cup: The Governor’s Cup recognizes an attraction, destination, or development that demonstrates extraordinary success in tourism that impacts both the economy and quality of life in their community and the state.
    Winner: Explore Charleston | Intern Cultural Enrichment Program
    Through a new internship program, Explore Charleston is introducing undergraduate minority students to world-class summer internships in the tourism industry. The goal of the program is to help increase the number of minorities in leadership positions to create a more informed, just, and equitable industry and community. Explore Charleston welcomed the inaugural class of its Intern Cultural Enrichment Program, a first-of-its-kind initiative, in 2021. To date, 27 students from 13 colleges and universities have completed internships with 10 industry partners – ranging from hotels to resorts to the airport. The innovative program is advancing the industry by raising awareness and taking action for inclusion and equity, addressing long-standing workforce challenges, correcting misperceptions about career pathways, and supporting sustainability for the travel and hospitality industry at a local level and beyond.
  • The Charles A. Bundy Award: The esteemed Bundy Award is given to the attraction, destination, or development that helps rural communities reach their tourism potential. Charles Bundy, who passed away in November, served as the chairman of the former PRT Commission and was instrumental in realizing the importance of rural tourism development in South Carolina.
    Winner: City of Rock Hill Parks, Recreation & Tourism | American Cornhole League World Championship on ESPN8 The Ocho
    In their third consecutive year of hosting the American Cornhole League (ACL) World Championships, Rock Hill PRT ventured to elevate the event and the City’s visibility by pitching a series of 12 niche sports events to be aired live on ESPN8. Their creativity and strategic relationships within the niche sporting community resulted in 14 hours of live sports coverage on ESPN8 during the ACL World Championships, all from Rock Hill – a first for the sports channel. With network viewership across the events nearing 900,000, and an overall economic impact of $6.6 million from visitation to the day’s sporting events, the City’s hard work and innovation saw incredible results that directly impacted their local community.
Need more information?   Sam Queen
Director of Corporate Communications
SC Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism
1205 Pendleton Street, Columbia, SC 29201
| 803-734-1779
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