Hilton Head Island, SC : Beach at Leamington, Palmetto Dunes Plantation. Image credit:City-Data.com
The competition is wondering what will happen to the Redneck Riviera tourist market this year, and ready to take advantage of changing plans. Tar balls making land fall are likely to drive many traditional Gulf Coast beach lovers somewhere else. But where is that somewhere going to be? The Augusta Chronicle reports that "...phones are also steadily ringing for tourism officials hundreds of miles away at Atlantic Coast beaches like Hilton Head Island, S.C., as they delicately try to lure vacationers away without appearing to profit from the disaster." Money quote follows.
Beaches are big business for Southeastern states. Alabama has just two coastal counties, but visitors spend more than $3 billion a year - better than a third of all tourism money in the state. Tourists spend $60 billion a year in Florida, accounting for nearly a quarter of all the state's sales tax revenue. And in South Carolina, tourism is the state's biggest industry, with vacationers spending more than $10 billion a year, the majority of it along the coast.