(July 12, 2023) COLUMBIA, S.C. – Visitation to the Columbia region increased from 15.1 million in 2021 to 15.8 million in 2022, Experience Columbia SC announced today. The 2022 numbers surpass pre-pandemic levels by four percent. 

These statistics, compiled by Longwoods International and Tourism Economics, also show that visitor spending in 2022 increased 12% over the previous year to $1.7 billion, generating a total economic impact of $2.6 billion in the Columbia region. This total economic impact sustained over 22,300 jobs and generated $130 million in state and local tax revenues in 2022. 

“The $1.7 billion in visitor spending means that nearly $4.7 million was spent by people visiting the Columbia region every day,” said Bill Ellen, president and CEO of Experience Columbia SC. “Additionally, taxpayers would have to pay an additional $481 to replace visitor-generated taxes received by state and local governments. What tourism does for the local economy is extremely impactful.”

Other key increases include:

  • A growth in overnight visitation from 5.4 million to 5.7 million 
  • Of the $1.7 billion spent in Columbia, visitor spending on food and beverage accounted for $487 million, 29% of each visitor’s budget 
  • Visitor retail spending reached $356 million in 2022, 21% of all visitor spending 
  • Transportation, including both air and transportation within the destination, added up to 18% of visitor spending 
  • At $286 million, lodging accounted for 17% of visitor spending. Recreation & entertainment amounted to $232 million or 14% of visitor spending. 

Columbia SC Tourism is comprised of a set of sister organizations responsible for various components of promoting and marketing tourism throughout Richland County, Lexington County and the City of Columbia.  The two sister organizations are made up of three branches –Experience Columbia SC, Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and Experience Columbia SC Sports.

“These numbers reflect the hard work and successful initiatives our team has engaged in this year – from innovative sales and marketing ideas to having a record-setting year at our convention center and gaining national exposure for Columbia at tradeshows and through sporting events,” Ellen said. 

Over the past year, marketing efforts have included the continuation of the Experience Columbia SC Ambassador Program, now in its fifth year, which has gained both local and national attention, visitor trails like the Pimento Cheese Passport, marketing initiatives centered around driving people to stay in Columbia when attending The Masters, and notable press and influencer coverage. The Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center welcomed 191,510 attendees generating 18,807 hotel room nights. The CMCC team contracted 352 events this past year, with contract values totaling over $1.5 million, which exceeds the previous record for booking revenue by 12 percent. 

“It’s exciting to see that the Columbia region’s tourism is at an all-time high, but what’s even more exciting is the work the team at Experience Columbia SC is doing on a daily basis to help contribute to that growth,” said Kelly Barbrey, VP of marketing and communications. “From innovative marketing and social media campaigns to hosting travel writers and influencers to sales initiatives that bring meeting and convention planners to town, the team has a heart for this region and what they do. And that momentum is not slowing down anytime soon.”


About Experience Columbia SC: 

Experience Columbia SC is the region’s destination marketing organization. We’re responsible for all marketing efforts intended to help more visitors discover all that makes Columbia the real Southern hot spot. Think of us as the biggest cheerleader for the heart of South Carolina. For more information, please visit www.experiencecolumbiasc.com and www.columbiasctourism.com.