From The Daniel Island News
Hey, where did all the own-town tourists go?
By Jennifer Johnston
Jan 30, 2013 - 8:39:57 AM
Patriot's Point offered a weekend discount in
January inviting visitors to "Pay-What-You-Can"
experience the USS Yorktown, as well as the USS Clamagore submarine,
Vietnam Support Base, Cold War Memorial, and Medal of Honor Museum.
The now-defunct Be a Tourist in Your Own Town
program served as a boost to business, and resident exploration, in the month of January
for 17 years.
The Charleston Area Convention and Visitors
Bureau's "Charleston Explorers" program gets kids
excited about sight-seeing in the Holy City.
You may have noticed a
subtle, recent change in the migratory pattern of an animal indigenous to the
Lowcountry. It is not the beloved loggerhead turtle, or the bashful egret, or
even the bewildering fox squirrel. It is the creature known as the local, and its pace seems to have
slowed a bit this January. It is not running from one historic site to the
next, grabbing a two-for-one meal in between, and hollering to its offspring to
‘keep up for goodness sake.’ And it seems to have shed its fanny pack.
We can only attribute this
shift to the absence of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s
(CVB) “Be a Tourist in Your Own Town” program, which ran for 17 years and was
discontinued in 2012. During its run, the program offered locals a way to visit
attractions throughout the tri-county area for a deep discount. With the
purchase of a Be a Tourist pass, which could only be obtained from a CVB
visitor center with proof of residency, the very people who reside in the
Charleston area could behave like awe-struck visitors for the entire month of
January. For the last ten years, the passes sold for $20 per individual or $50
for a family up to four people, and granted free one-time admission to dozens
of top Lowcountry attractions and discounts at over 20 restaurants.
It was a popular program of
the CVB, and boosted receipts for area businesses during what historically has
been the slowest month of the year for Charleston tourism. "It had
remained steady, but then pass sales hit a bit of a decline the last two
years,” reports CVB Deputy Director Perrin Lawson. He attributes this drop to
One is the advent of such
discounts sites as Groupon and LivingSocial, which began offering discounts at
many of the same venues throughout the year. Be a Tourist also overlapped
Charleston Restaurant Week, making the dining discounts on the pass somewhat redundant.
"The program was also successful
because everyone was agreeing to do it in same way,” recalls Perrin, “with
offers running during regular business hours and open to all
areas of attractions." But where some places were closing for part of the
month to undergo renovations or altering their hours to compensate for slowed
volume, Lawson states, "It created some real challenges." For example, The Middleton Place House
Museum closed for annual maintenance from January 22 through February 1 this
year, taking advantage of what is typically a sluggish time for tours.
But Charlestonians need not
put their cameras and sensible walking shoes into long-term storage just yet. As
an alternative to the program, locals will find that sight-seeing faves are
offering their own programming, with various discounts and membership
packages. "And the great thing about what the attractions are doing
now is running during other times of year,” Perrin confirms, “so it's not
limited to just January when the weather is bad." With the explosion of
business-utilized social media, many of these businesses are making folks aware
of offerings via Facebook, often on a daily basis. Lawson says the best
thing to do is to be aware by way of local print and online media. But keep the
CVB website handy, too; it's a great starting point.
A particularly great spot to
point and click is on the CVB’s “Charleston Explorers” link. Here, families can
find instructions on an incentive, admittedly designed for visitors but totally
open to locals, designed to get “kids of all ages” to experience all that Charleston
has to offer. Free passports can be obtained at any of the five Charleston area
visitor centers, and participants then enter a unique number from the passbook
into their Smartphone or home computer. At each “Explorers” attraction they
visit, hometown tourists get a passport stamp and log the stop into the site
online. After making the rounds, participants get a prize; the Elite Explorer
level is awarded with a new iPod Touch!
But there are
those who still have their heart set on sprinting through the Top City in the
World, Amazing Race-style, during the dog days of winter. For these locals,
many hot spots are still honoring the spirit of Be a Tourist. During the month
of January, Magnolia Place offered two-for-one
garden admission, and Drayton Hall gave away a free adult admission to its
Facebook Friends. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum held a
Pay-What-You-Can promotion the weekend of January 7-8; visitors were invited to
pay a fraction of the regular ticket cost, or if unable to afford any entrance
fee, the maritime museum allowed "guest" entries at no charge.
For those looking to score
Chucktown discounts and plan stay-cations throughout the year, the CVB and
Charleston Explorer websites offer links to a rotating roster of specials and
coupons on dining, activities, and lodging. "Our site is great for telling
people what is available," Lawson explains, but asks residents to keep in
mind that it is not geared toward local offers since it's set up more to
assist visitors to Charleston. Roger that, Deputy Lawson. And we’ll still be
sure to keep a light jacket and DASH trolley map handy.
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