September 20, 2017 (Columbia, S.C.) – Roughly 1.6 million people traveled to or within South Carolina to view the total solar eclipse last month, according to research released today by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. Their hotel bookings and other travel expenditures left an estimated $269 million economic impact across the state, making the eclipse the largest single tourist event on record in South Carolina.
“Not only does this research confirm what our indicators hinted at weeks ago, it puts the picture into sharper focus, adding more definition to the eclipse’s total impact,” said SCPRT Director Duane Parrish.
The visitation numbers and impacts were derived from a model combining data from STR, Inc. (which usually tracks occupancy,) the SMARI Survey of SC Eclipse Travelers and SCPRT’s room inventory database. The survey was conducted in states along the Eastern seaboard that traditionally have high concentrations of consumers who choose South Carolina for their travel. The survey does not reflect international visitation.
According to the research, more than half of eclipse travelers were South Carolinians who left their hometowns to see the eclipse in another location in the state. About 800,000 visitors were from out of state, primarily from North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Most people who traveled to or within South Carolina to view the eclipse stayed overnight, and reported participating in activities such as shopping, unique local dining, beach activities, visiting historical attractions or engaging in outdoor recreation.
- Most visitors viewed the eclipse in the Greenville, Columbia or Charleston metro areas.
- About 48 percent of out-of-state visitors and one-third of in-state travelers indicate they went to an optimal viewing site like a park, a mountain site or coast.
- About 23 percent of out-of-state visitors and 25 percent of in-state travelers reported participating in an organized solar eclipse event.
- Nearly all of the respondents rated their experience as “excellent” or “good,” describing their time in South Carolina viewing the eclipse as “unique,” “amazing,” or “once in a lifetime.” The few “fair” or “poor” ratings were almost all due to poor weather.
- Another 3.8 million South Carolinians did not travel, but saw the eclipse in their hometowns.
Image credit of totality on Aug. 21, 2017: Aubrey Gemignani for NASA