A recent study from the University of South Carolina's Richardson Family SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development has found that South Carolina's tourism industry has been booming since the removal of the Confederate battle flag from Statehouse grounds in Columbia, according to the Columbia Regional Business Report.
African-American tourists generate $2.4 billion annually for South Carolina, according to the study, and that number has been rising since the Confederate flag was removed in July 2015.
Researchers also found that almost half of all out-of-state African-American travelers surveyed said that the flag's removal increased their desire to visit, Charleston City Paper reports. The paper noted that just a 5 percent increase in African-American tourism would result in an extra $118 million for the state. The study also noted, however, that half of all potential African-American visitors to the state are concerned about experiencing racial discrimination there.
"We need to recognize that the fear of racial discrimination is real," said Simon Hudson, director of the center, according to Charleston City Paper. "As tourism providers, we need to better understand travelers from a diverse array of backgrounds and be able to cater to their particular interests and needs."
There is strong potential for more African-American tourist destinations, but according to Hudson, more investments need to be made to maintain these places, because many of those that already exist are located in economically depressed communities.
"It’s not only about bringing in new tourists," said Hudson. "It’s about investing in what South Carolina already has and building upon it."