SC Gets Big Economic Bump from Primaries

WASHINGTON (February 19, 2016)—Journalists, campaign teams and others flocking to South Carolina for its early presidential primary generate a sizeable swell in travel dollars for the state’s economy, according to researchers at the U.S. Travel Association.

Based on analysis of hotel room demand during the past five presidential cycles in South Carolina, this year’s primary could lead to an additional 230,000 room nights booked in the state, compared to non-election years. When multiplied by the state’s average room rate, that’s an extra $24.2 million in hotel revenue. While there are no reliable figures for exactly how many people will invade the Palmetto State specifically for the primaries—or for how long—economists say those figures are strong evidence of a politics-related surge.

U.S. Travel economists ran a similar analysis for New Hampshire. Though a similar trend seems at play there—an estimated extra 78,400 room-nights and $8.9 million in hotel revenue during primary years—U.S. Travel found that the effect in South Carolina appears to be far greater.

Besides it being larger state than New Hampshire, another possible reason for this swell in South Carolina could be the state’s bookending primaries (the Republican primary is Saturday, February 20; the Democratic primary is Saturday February, 27), which may encourage folks to stick around longer.

The broader economic impact could be considerable. Each visitor in town for the presidential season will spend an estimated $330 per day on average for transportation, hotel rooms, meals and other travel activity, researchers found—or $2,310 per week.

With every $74,200 in visitor spending supporting the creation of one job, every 32 reporters in town covering the primaries for a week helps employ one extra South Carolinian.

“Politicians like to talk about how they have the best plan to create jobs. I wonder if they know they’re doing that just by coming to a state and standing on the stump,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Travel and tourism are among the country’s most effective job creators by industry. If the candidates want to embrace a job-creating message that’s been tested by the evidence, it ought to be, ‘Hit the road!’”

South Carolina is the second stop for the U.S. Travel Association’s industry positioning ad campaign highlighting the power of travel in local economies. Earlier this month, U.S. Travel advertisements appeared in the Manchester, New Hampshire airport for the nation’s first primary. U.S. Travel is continuing this effort in South Carolina with “Travel Means Jobs” advertisements on hotel keycards.

U.S. Travel will continue to tout the economic benefits of travel throughout the campaign season, with future plans to advertise in Cleveland and Philadelphia for the party conventions and in Las Vegas for the final presidential debate.

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