Canceled events for the Lowcountry cause worry for business owners in upcoming fiscal year

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Between the events of Charleston Food + Wine and the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) being canceled for 2021, roughly $70 million of economic impact will be gone for the Lowcountry.

Tourism experts said many predicted 2020 and 2021 to be record breaking years, but with the pandemic, the numbers never made it there. 

Daniel Guttentag, the Director of the Office of Tourism Analysis for the College of Charleston, said as it stands right now, hotels for the Lowcounty are down about 40% in occupancy in comparison to 2019 and are down about 25% in terms of rate. 

Guttentag went on to state, “obviously, the spring time, when everything sort of hit and unfolded things fell off a cliff and we were down 75%/ 80/ 65% percent.”

Guttentag said while the drive market has expanded for tourism without the yearly events, and news of potentially speeding up vaccinations has been released, peak numbers could happen later than hoped in 2021.

For Chip Ervin, the owner of Grady Ervin & Co., SEWE was not only their target market, but a twenty-plus year partnership. Inside the store located on King Street, you’ll find photos and artwork of creators in SEWE’s past years along with the North Charleston-based Smithey Ironware.

Ervin said that all who have been able to stay afloat since the pandemic have felt the pain of decreased tourism and sales.

As a Business Owner, whether it be restaurants or retail clothing or any other service, you have to buckle up and you have to make changes. The business plans—nobody has a business plan for COVID, and so for everybody it’s a day by day, and month by month plan. And I think you have to hope you have a few reserves. 

Chip Ervin, Grady Ervin & Co.  

Ervin said his reserves for when the pandemic hit the Lowcountry in March initially came from SEWE and kept them afloat until they were able to turn to a PPP loan. Eventually after reopening to the public, they started seeing a bit more business in their fourth quarter.

But without the cushion from the event, the hope for 2021 is simply for all to hold on. Ervin said, “It is a tremendous loss economically for the town, and I feel it for the restaurants and the hotels too who have already had a hard time like the rest of us.”

While this is a hard loss to have the many events canceled for 2021, Ervin believes that in 2022, the demand will be much higher for the City of Charleston.

For more on Grady Ervin & Co., click here.

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