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S.C. parks bring in record revenue

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By Ashley Heffernan
aheffernan@scbiznews.com
Published Sept. 1, 2015

The S.C. State Park Service earned a record $26.9 million in revenue during the recently ended fiscal year, according to the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, which oversees the park service.

Revenue was up nearly $3 million from fiscal 2014, and the park service finished the year 94% operationally self-sufficient.

S.C. parks, such as Charles Towne Landing in West Ashley, took in record revenue in fiscal 2015. (Photo/Provided)S.C. parks, such as Charles Towne Landing in West Ashley, took in record revenue in fiscal 2015. (Photo/Provided)
An improving economy, declining gas prices and good weather contributed to the parks’ performance, in addition to park service initiatives, the department said.

The park service upgraded cabins, improved campsites, added a marina and built new attractions inside state parks. Projects included a splash pad at Sesquicentennial State Park in Columbia, new camper cabins at Dreher Island in Prosperity and at Lake Hartwell in Fair Play, as well as new campgrounds at Huntington Beach in Murrells Inlet and Lake Wateree in Winnsboro.

“Within the past 10 years, annual occupancy rates for cabins and campsites witnessed double-digit growth. Almost every state park with a capital improvement project of some type, especially in their lodging facilities, experienced an increase in occupancy,” a statement from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism said.

Additionally, the park service hosted special programs, such as a geocaching challenge, camper cook-offs and hikes, to draw new visitors and encourage repeat visits. It also offered promotional discounts.

“We are committed to continuously seeking and implementing practices that help us reach our goals,” Duane Parrish, director of the parks department, said in a statement. “And we are proud that our hard work thus far is literally paying off. We are looking forward to many more years of growth.”

Monthly snapshot

On Monday, the department released data from June on various tourism indicators.

Statewide hotel revenue per available room — known as revpar — was up 8.2% to $89.96 in June compared with June 2014.

Revpar in the North Charleston, Anderson-Clemson and Greenville areas went up more than 15% during the month. In the Rock Hill-Monroe, N.C., Spartanburg, Florence-Dillon, Hilton Head-Beaufort, Charleston International Airport and Charleston-West Ashley areas, revpar increased 10% or more, the department said.

Smith Travel Research forecasts occupancy growth to continue through the fall.

Occupancy rates are predicted to hit 61.6% in September, 62.9% in October and 52.4% in November, which would be increases of 1.3%, 0.9% and 1.0%, respectively, from the same months in 2014.

Overall admissions tax collections increased nearly 6% in June to about $3.8 million. Collections from golf accounted for $1.1 million of the total, according to the department.

Airplane deplanements at most S.C. airports were also on the rise in June when compared with the previous year.

Charleston International Airport and Columbia Metropolitan Airport saw increases of 15.5% and 3.0%, respectively, in deplanements. GSP International Airport’s deplanements went up 0.4%, and Myrtle Beach International Airport saw an increase of 7.0%. Hilton Head Island Airport lost 31.5%, the department said.

Across the state, there were 412,880 deplanements in June, up 7.5% from June 2014.

Reach staff writer Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyBHeff on Twitter.

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