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Tourism: Coming soon to a theater near you? Park ads
By Charles Swenson
Georgetown County’s decision earlier this year to leave $20,000 in accommodations tax revenue unspent prompted the county’s Tourism Management Commission to bump up its fall request from $200,000 to $220,000.
But there isn’t likely to be any money lying around after the next round of grants. Seven groups have put in nine requests totalling $567,922.
The county has not yet received funds for the quarter that ended June 30, which are collected by the state. “One thing is for certain, funding will be far less than the requested amounts,” said Scott Proctor, the county finance director.
As usual, the tourism commission has the largest request. It receives 30 percent of the county’s revenue from the state tax on short-term accommodations for marketing, but routinely asks for additional funds for tourism marketing.
There are two other requests for marketing funds up for review next month by the Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee. Huntington Beach State Park wants $69,936 to market winter camping that will include ads in movie theaters. Bethel AME Church wants $8,404 in marketing funds for a living history production about the Underground Railroad. Both ventures will help bring tourists to Georgetown County, organizers say.
The state park has a Snowbird Camping Special (half off for those staying 30 consecutive nights). It’s only being promoted on the state Parks, Recreation and Tourism website, but Brenda Magers, the park manager, has a plan to advertise it online, in newspapers around the state and on billboards in Charleston and Myrtle Beach. The largest share of the campaign, $31,861, is for ads in
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movie theaters. That would be a first for county tourism marketing.
The plan was prepared by the parks department based on the fact that a majority of reservations at the park come from the Carolinas. The goal of the cinema ads is to reach people outside their home during cool weather. Screenvision will put ads for the snowbird special on 325 screens for four weeks in November and December.
While the park’s campsites have a 93 percent occupancy rate in the summer, it falls to 34 percent in December through February. The park gets about 40 snowbird reservations each year. The goal is to raise winter occupancy 10 percent over three years, which would bring in $109,600 in new revenue, according to the park.
The request will be reviewed by the advisory committee on Aug. 22. The committee recommendations will go to County Council for final approval.
Other organizations seeking funds include:
Georgetown County Parks and Recreation: The department has two requests. It wants $32,800 toward a $56,000 project to improve emergency vehicle access at two existing beach walkways in North Litchfield and Garden City.
At North Litchfield, sand is building up at the end of the emergency access at Walkway 47. The department wants to build a wooden ramp over the sand.
At Garden City, the problem is erosion. The department wants to move the emergency access north of the existing location and build a ramp over the sand.
Parks and Recreation also requested $56,782 toward a $113,564 budget for cleanup at beach accesses at Pawleys Island and Garden City, the Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk and the Bike the Neck trail. The budget includes a full-time employee, a dump truck, a tractor with a sweeper, material for trash cans and a seasonal contract for portable toilets.
Litchfield Corridor Beautification Committee: The group also has two requests. It wants $25,000 for landscape and maintenance on 3.5 miles of Highway 17 from Martin Luther King Drive to Sandy Island Road, and another $15,000 for .6 mile north of Sandy Island Road.
Willbrook Plantation Road Maintenance District: It wants $50,000 toward a $79,074 project to resurface the bike and golf cart path along Willbrook Boulevard and install barriers to prevent root damage to the pavement. The path connects the existing Bike the Neck trail with a new section due to be built along Kings River Road.
Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Department: It wants $90,000 to buy an all-terrain vehicle and fund rescue services.