COLUMBIA, S.C. –It’s too early to know the cost of the damage to South Carolina from Hurricane Matthew, and most coastal vacation destinations are advertising they’re back in business. But a USC professor who’s an expert on tourism says the cost of lost tourism revenue will be significant.
“I would still think that it’s going to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars lost, just because it was extended. It wasn’t just a two-day event, it was from Tuesday to Sunday and people are still getting back there,” says Dr. David Cárdenas, associate professor of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management at the University of South Carolina.
He says South Carolina fared better than Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, because the storm was stronger when it hit Florida and Georgia, weakened when it hit South Carolina, and then dumped a lot of rain on North Carolina. “The coastline of South Carolina is probably one of the best remaining coastlines. North Carolina’s is going to take a long, long time. Georgia and Florida are still struggling because it was a lot bigger there,” he says.
But he thinks public perception matters, and when people saw the storm on the news and see that there’s still flooding in the Carolinas, they’ll be reluctant to make reservations here.
There’s also another issue, even if South Carolina resorts are back in business: getting there. “We talked about the North Carolina I-95 being closed,” he says. “Anybody coming from Virginia, D.C., down here, it’s very, very difficult to get here, and so just because of the hassle they’re not going to come down here.”
He says South Carolina’s tourism industry, the largest in the state and its largest employer, was projected to have one of its best falls ever.
The state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism says it’s too early to estimate how much the tourism industry has lost and will lose because of the storm. Director of Communications Dawn Dawson-House says the agency is compiling damage assessments and will have an estimate late next week.