A look back and a glance forward at the Lowcountry’s top economic driver

Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce

Was fall the new spring on Hilton Head Island?

It felt that way as the upward trend of home and villa rentals led to a rebound following an initial spring halt to much of the island’s top economic driver of tourism.

Tourism officials had the unenviable task of assuring residents that safety and tourism weren’t mutually exclusive, and that businesses could adapt and operate safely in a post-quarantine environment following the early months of the pandemic.

“Residents have been coexisting successfully with visitors for decades,” said Bill Miles, President & CEO of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. “We knew it was critical to ensure both residents and visitors were staying safe together throughout the visitor season, which is why we launched the Path Forward Plan.”

Compared to the rest of the country and around the state, pandemic rates for Hilton Head Island and Bluffton remained lower by comparison even with a summer season shared with visitors. Fall continued with lower rates than many places were seeing. 

The trend continued into fall with record numbers in terms of visitation and homes, villas and hotels filled with families not only remotely working but on “schoolcations” with students able to learn from afar. 

Fall undoubtedly helped bolster spring drops for our economy and 2021 looks promising as vaccines become more readily accessible and corporate groups feel more optimistic about travel. Pent-up demand among leisure travelers will also be at an all-time high.

The other silver lining of 2020 is the rise in property values. According to Jean Beck, CEO of the Hilton Head Area Realtors, sales were up in fall months over 50%. “It’s a seller’s market,” she noted with low inventory and high demand.

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