Director Says Tourism Major Industry in Pickens County
Published: September 17, 2015
By Vince Jackson 864-650-0585
Pickens—Tourists bring $96.85 million dollars into Pickens County each year and account for 1,275 tourism-related jobs, according to the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
Helen Hockwalt, tourism and marketing director for Pickens County, told the Pickens County Taxpayers Association this week tourism is an industry; one of the county’s largest.
“We think of industry as manufacturing, but tourism is as much an industry as a facility producing a product,” Hockwalt said.
On average tourists pay over $3 million in sales and other taxes each year when they spend their money in Pickens County. This reduces the tax burden on residents to the tune of about $173 per household each year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“On an average day in Pickens County tourists spend $265,342. That is a significant number,” Hockwalt said.
Hockwalt said visitors are becoming more sophisticated as they look for information on where to go and what to do. She said 56 percent of website inquiries about the county are now conducted on a cellphone, I-pad or similar device.
“We are constantly looking at the preferences of our visitors. Today, tourists want an experience, not just a place to visit,” Hockwalt said.
At one time, booking princess tea parties was a big attraction at Disney World, but over time the numbers steadily declined. Studies revealed young girls did not want to attend a tea party with a princess, they wanted to be the princess. Hockwalt said the county is trying to make tourism an interesting and active experience for visitors.
Pickens County has mountains, lakes, trout streams, hiking trails and other natural resources in which tourists are interested. Hockwalt said Appalachian culture at Hagood Mill is an attraction for those interested in music, hearth cooking, canning and preserving food.
“We think of these things as part of everyday life, but people from other areas want to experience these things first hand,” she said.