Suzi Sale, the city of Camden’s tourism director and interim economic development director, provided an update to Kershaw County Council of efforts her office is making to promoting both Camden and the county to tourists. Sale made her report during a presentation at council’s meeting Tuesday evening.
As Sale explained, the Camden and Kershaw County formed a tourism partnership in 2014, creating Sale’s office, with the express purpose of promoting tourism in the city and throughout the county. While Sale’s position is with the city, her office is supported financially and otherwise by both the city and county.
“The first thing we wanted to do was to form a tourism development team,” Sale said. “The way we did this was by engaging all the representatives throughout the county of all of our tourism assets. This includes the South Carolina Equine Park, the Carolina Cup Racing Association -- everything is a tourism magnet in the county, everything that is an event that is going to be drawing visitors into the area. This includes Historic Camden … the economic development office in the county and one of our great partners is the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce.”
Sale said there are 28 individual organizations represented in the collaboration which came up with what she called a “master super calendar” of everything those organizations have going on for the next year.
“It’s a giant spreadsheet … not only to make sure we have lots of good things going but we don’t want to conflict with those (and) we also want to know about them so we can partner together, we can do some co-op advertising and make events a much stronger package or bundle of activities that visitors and tourists will enjoy in Kershaw County,” she said.
Sale said the marketing program is focused primarily on county-based visitor “magnets” and partnering with “vertical specialty market drivers” -- fishing, racing, cycling, tennis and equine/outdoor life and recreation.
“The goal is to work with all of those partners to help increase travel-related expenses in Kershaw County,” Sale said.
She mentioned working with the chamber on Discover Camden-Kershaw County Magazine; travel writers on features concerning Lake Wateree and Carolina Motorsports Park; and the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) on a package highlighting the county’s equine industry. Sale said the city helped fund the creation of a new tourism website using the Classically Carolina brand.
“It is a good site,” she said. “We are enhancing it weekly with additional points of interest in the county, and , certainly restaurants and places for folks to shop.”
Her office is also maintaining a social media presence on Facebook and also publish a monthly “e-blast” which goes out to nearly 2,000 individuals who have visited the area previously and want to keep up on what is happening in the city and county.
Sale said the Classically Carolina marketing is promoting the entire county’s history and heritage, as well as sporting/outdoor lifestyle, festivals, museums, art and antique collecting experiences.
“Hopefully, you all have seen in the last 18 months or so the advertising that is around on outdoor (bill)boards and in magazines,” Sale said. “That advertising is being driven by the city’s hospitality tax funding. In the last 18 months, the city has spent almost $100,000 on billboards alone, which is an umbrella under which the county information is marketed.”
Riffing a little on a phrase Council Chairman Julian Burns often uses, Sale said the advertising efforts promote the idea “Kershaw County is open for tourists.”
Expanding a little on the “vertical markets” concept, Sale said her office is also engaged in “contracted sponsorships” with entities such as the S.C. Equine and Carolina Motorsports parks. These have also included, for example, corporate sponsored fishing tournaments on Lake Wateree.
Based on the average price of local hotel stays, Sale estimated an average of between 3,900 and 6,000 room nights totaling -- without even including gas and food -- $450,000 to “just south” of $1 million in travel spending in the county.
Sale then talked about what’s ahead. Forthcoming projects include a guide to Kershaw County outdoor life with material placed online, advertisements in Discovery South Carolina Outdoors magazine and an agricultural/art tour in June.
“They tour all the farms that have signed up to be on here, and at each of the farms, there’s artisans. People can buy the goods. Last year, the ag and art tour throughout the Olde English District drew like 20,000 people. We will be partnering that same weekend with Fairfield County, which is good for us because they don’t have any hotels over there,” Sale said.
According to PRT, she said, Kershaw County travel related expenditures reached $48.6 million in 2014 -- including spending on hotels, foods, gas and transportation -- up 3.6 percent from 2013.
“So, I think we’re getting the word out there, we can see it in the numbers. Hopefully, you can feel the buzz about it,” Sale said.
She concluded her presentation by inviting everyone to events in the coming week surrounding the Equus Film Festival in Camden.
Also Tuesday, interim Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site Executive Director Amy Sheheen and Historic Camden Foundation Chairman Dr. Tray Dunaway made a presentation on the site’s transformation plan. The presentation was similar to one they made later in the evening at Camden City Council’s meeting (see accompanying story).
In other business Tuesday:
• During public comments, Sidney Butler spoke on the need for the county to support upgrades and/or reconstruction of many of the county’s schools, some of which he said date back to the 1950s; and Tim Dinkins who expressed concern about the planning and zoning department’s denial of his repurposing a shipping container to store items on a property he is temporarily living at in Elgin.
• Council unanimously passed second reading of an ordinance which, if passed on a subsequent third reading, will rezone a piece of property on U.S. 1 in Cassatt from RD-1 residential to GD general development to allow for the construction of a Family Dollar store.
• Council voted to not take up a proposed policy which would have allowed the public to rent council’s chamber and another, smaller room at the government center for non-governmental functions.
• During his briefing to council, County Administrator Vic Carpenter reported the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has reviewed a study commissioned and paid for in part by the county on Lake Wateree elevations and their impact on flood insurance. Carpenter said FEMA agrees changes need to be made, which, Carpenter said, should mean the owners of approximately 600 lots in Kershaw County will no longer be required to purchase flood insurance. He said it would between 16 and 24 months to finalize the change, but “the good news is we went against the federal government and we won.”
• During council member briefings, Councilman Jimmy Jones once again criticized The State newspaper for how it is littering Kershaw County with its advertising circulars. He said The State continues to ignore both his and residents’ requests to stop the practice of throwing their circulars in driveways, lawns and streets. Jones urged subscribers to The State who are upset with the practice to call and cancel their subscriptions as “the only way (The) State will listen to us” and provided the phone number to do so.