For the tourists who will step from the city parking garage on Ann Street, they will find a Charleston "Welcome Center" full of free maps, brochures to area attractions and a smiling staff waiting to answer questions. The center's mission, however, isn't the same as the official Charleston Visitor Center just across the street as the Welcome Center is run by Asheville-based Festiva Hospitality Group and its aim is to sell timeshare vacations.
In recent years, there are already at least eight privately run visitor information centers which have popped up around the Holy City dispensing advice and vouchers in return for a sales pitch for time shares and vacation clubs. Cruise ships aren't also hard to find these days in Charleston, where the pleasure boat industry is expanding. But it's not its presence that everyone is comfortable with. For some critics, too many cruise ships will overwhelm Charleston with traffic and air pollution while ruining the character of a city that thrives on its past.
As the summer is almost here, millions of visitors will soon begin arriving in their community and anxious to enjoy a Grand Strand vacation. In these challenging economic times, the arrival of visitors is a very welcome sign. This is true not just for those who live along the Grand Strand, but for all South Carolinians, as tourism is the economic engine that drives their state's economy.
Despite the threats of the vacation industry nowadays such as the number of owners trying to get out of their timeshares every year and those individuals who even avoid travelling to cutback their spending, visitors inject more than $4.5 billion into the states local economy. They also contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and fees, which fund infrastructure and services needed by tourists and residents alike, including roads, bridges, schools, law enforcement, cultural programs, beach protection and more.