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Accommodations tax: Tourism campaign takes up lion's share of requests

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Funds for tourism promotion account for two-thirds of the requests for accommodations tax grants from Georgetown County.

Five groups are seeking just over $302,000 from the state tax on short-term rentals. The county Tourism Management Commission wants $200,000 to fund advertising and marketing.

It is not yet known how much money will be available.

The commission has a $732,000 budget, and anticipates receiving $520,000 from accommodations tax grants. The commission also gets 30 percent of the county’s accommodations tax revenues, which state law requires be spent on promotion.

The county awards grants from the balance of the tax revenue twice a year. The Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee will meet in August to review the current round of requests and make a recommendation to County Council.

Three new groups are seeking funds: Midway Fire and Rescue, the Winyah Rivers Foundation and Bethel AME Church in Georgetown.

Midway wants $20,531 to expand beach patrols over Labor Day weekend and on days when there are hazardous surf conditions. That includes $4,000 for salaries.

The balance will fund equipment, such as night-vision goggles and a rescue sled for water rescues. Midway also wants to buy 15 sets of personal flotation devices with emergency gear, enough so every firefighter on duty can have one.

The request also includes $1,000 to promote awareness of rip currents.

The tax funds have to fund tourism-related activities. Midway’s request notes “the tangible message it sends out to our visitors and locals alike, our community cares enough to provide for your safety.”

The Winyah Rivers request is for $7,500 to put up signs on the Waccamaw River Blue Trail. The trail is being developed with a grant from American Rivers. The request to Georgetown County will fund signs at three public landings, 30 directional signs and 10 interpretive signs. It will also pay for waterproof maps.

“The Waccamaw River Blue Trail will help to engage local citizens in the stewardship of their watershed and help promote Georgetown County as an ecotourism destination,” the applications states.

Bethel AME wants $20,400 to produce a play on the Underground Railroad, which the church says “will offer tourists another venue and another point of view on Georgetown County.”

It will also develop a tour in conjunction with monthly performances, and says it expects to match the tax funds through ticket sales.

Also seeking funds is the Litchfield CorridorBeautification Committee, which wants $39,000 for mowing and trash pickup in the landscaped portion of Highway 17 next year.

The county Parks and Recreation Department wants $15,000 toward the $30,000 cost of building a second emergency beach access at Garden City and renovating 25 walkways.

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