Still making history

Why South Carolina boasts the world's top tourist destination

Nothing seems to solidify a city’s future quite like a vast past. Tourists love to stroll through time in a well-preserved historic district.

Charleston, S.C., has more than its share of that old-time, old South ambience, from the Revolutionary to Civil War eras and beyond. But it must be said that the amazing allure of Charleston goes far deeper than even its rich history. There are other places on Earth, after all, whose historic sites stretch back hundreds of years further.

There’s so much more about Charleston that inspired the readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine to recently name the city the top tourist destination in the world.

We couldn’t be happier for our friends in Charleston, little more than a couple hours away from here. But neither are we much surprised. Said the New York Times a few years ago in a glowing review of Charleston, “pastel-colored row houses, horse-drawn carriages, wind-blown forts and live oaks draped with Spanish moss have an appeal to all ages.”

Charleston is comfortable. Easy. Warm. Friendly. Walkable. Scenic. Inspiring. Fun. And, while historic, it still manages to be edgy and vibrant. Its springtime Spoleto Festival USA, for example, is one of the most beloved performing arts festivals in the nation.

Charleston’s shops and restaurants are also worthy of the top tourist spot, as are the trees that seem to pose for you, the Spanish moss they wear, the climate, the beaches and more. Many tourist destinations around the world are known for one or more of these things, but few boast them all.

Still, at bottom, what good are even the best attractions on Earth without the people to go with them? More than the nation’s or world’s top destination, Charleston is the gateway to timeless Southern charm. The people of Charleston are all our ambassadors.

Even in the best tourist location, it’s the people who make the difference.

And they make a difference to the entire region. Gov. Nikki Haley Wednesday celebrated the health of the state’s $15 billion tourism industry, noting that lodging occupancy is up 3 percent over the past year and that revenues per available room are up about 8 percent.

Not quite historic yet – the industry is still making its way back to pre-recession records. But no one doubts it will get there.

South Carolina is used to making history by now.

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