CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This weekend marks the unofficial start of the spring tourism season in South Carolina, a year in which tourism officials expect the $15 billion industry will return to levels of before the Great Recession.
There are a number of new events and tourism attractions around the state this year in addition to the yearly events that have become traditions for both South Carolinians and out-of-state visitors.
The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition opened its three-day run in Charleston on Friday. More than 500 artists and exhibitors are attending the event that each year brings about 40,000 visitors to venues around the city.
The expo, now in its 30th year and which started in 1983 with about 100 exhibitors and 5,000 attendees, attracts visitors to see everything form sporting dog competitions to displays of wildlife and exhibits of wildlife art.
In Myrtle Beach, the weekend brings the Myrtle Beach Marathon. That event last year drew about 8,000 runners to a number of different races held in conjunction with the marathon.
Taylor Damonte, the director of the Brittain Center for Resort Tourism at Coastal Carolina University, reports the center's weekly survey of area accommodations shows occupancy could be close to 80 percent with the combination of the marathon, Valentine's Day and Presidents Day weekend. That would be up almost 11 percent from the same weekend a year ago.
There are a number of new attractions and events across the state.
The first Bulls Bay Nature Festival - From the Forest to the Sea, will be held at conservation centers, wildlife refuges and parks near Awendaw northeast of Charleston on March 23. It's to raise awareness of the state's coast and will feature everything from a fishing derby to crabbing and cast netting.