In South Carolina, estimates are that outdoor recreation, including fishing, hunting, camping, bird watching, hiking and boating, generates over $18 billion in consumer spending, 4.7 billion in direct wages and $1 billion in state and local tax revenue! In short, outdoor recreation is a larger and more critical sector of the American economy than a lot of people realize. I have seen firsthand, through the connections in this association, that this field creates diverse jobs in marketing, sales, land management, guiding services and the list goes on in both the public and private service sectors.
Nature-based tourism focuses on visiting, appreciating and learning about natural and cultural resources. South Carolina is perfectly poised as a superb nature-travel destination. We are blessed with a diversity and richness of these resources. These resources also constitute a precious heritage that must be conserved and sustained. At the same time, we cannot afford the luxury of removing these resources entirely from economic use. Communities, resource managers and the tourism industry in SC have the opportunity to integrate the use and conservation of these resources, as we continue to develop the nature-based tourism industry. The challenge is to seek a balance with resource conservation and the use for economic benefit. We all have a critical role to play and we need to work together to accomplish mutually agreed upon goals with innovative thinking!
The start of the New Year is a great time for identifying needs, opportunities and trends within the SC nature-based industry, primarily through ongoing open communication with our members and their respective communities. We need to continue to invest in South Carolina’s network of lands and waterways, so that we may protect and enhance the outdoor experiences for the benefit of all. Not only does this type of investment provide fantastic experiences for our visitors and residents alike, it also benefits the hundreds of businesses, communities and families whose livelihoods depend on the outdoor recreation economy.
Beyond the excitement of our annual conference, our on-going efforts with workshops and at trade shows where we provide resources, education, interaction, mentoring and networking opportunities for all members…..What is it that you need from the SCNBTA? What is it you have to offer? Please consider sharing your talents, needs, thoughts and ideas with any of the officers or board members. Please remember that the SCNBTA can only be what we make it!
People are thankful for the jobs we do and some even realize what we already know – that we are often, the first line of defense for our cultural and natural resources in the state of South Carolina. The work we do throughout the year, day after day, ensures that future generations will have the same, if not better, opportunities to enjoy the state - all the way from the mountains to the sea! I am thankful to have the chance to continue to evolve and improve the maturation of the S.C. Nature-Based Tourism Association.