COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – One of the industries that was hit the hardest by COVID-19 is the tourism industry, which includes all of the attractions we love, restaurants and hotels we like to frequent on the coast and our state parks.

When the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state the tourism industry took a hit immediately and now five months later and the industry is still trying to bounce back.

“When the year first started those first two months we were looking at a record year in 2020 and then the pandemic hit,” said Duane Parrish, Dept. of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism.

This then caused hundreds of hotels to close and businesses to shut their doors. By the end of April, just one month after the first cases of COVID-19 in the state, hotel occupancy dropped form 80% to 20%.

“As hotels go, so does everyone else, so does restaurants, attractions, so does golf courses so does retail,” said Parrish.

Since then there has been some improvement, hotel occupancy surpassed 50% in early July, but there are still obstacles in the way of recovery childcare is needed for workers and liability protections are essential.

“In terms of the corporate traveler they’re not going to come back out in full force unless there’s a vaccine or liability protection, because companies are not going to promote travel and an employee contract the virus,” said Parrish.

The director of parks, recreation, and tourism told lawmakers Wednesday, unemployment is the biggest problem the department is asking is for $40 million to increase marketing and attract the visitors needed for businesses to reopen.

“Nothing will get us back open faster than putting heads in the beds,” said Parrish. “There’s still 2/3 of people that are willing to take a trip it’s critical that we get those people in SC not Georgia, not Florida.”

Because of COVID-19, the state’s tourism revenue is expected to be cut in half.

The tourism revenue usually generates $24 billion for the state and employs more than 200,000 people.