Concerned that South Carolina's tourism agency may have to close or reduce operations at its welcome centers because of state budget cuts, one local visitors bureau and its member hotels picked up the funding slack.
A year later, with its budget in even worse shape, the state Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department is hoping others will do the same and help fund the $1.9 million cost of operating nine welcome centers that tourism marketers consider key sales points for their business.
"We spend a lot of money trying to get people to consider coming to South Carolina," said Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The visitors centers, that's where the rubber meets the road: They're here."
Last year, Hill's group adopted the state's only welcome center located in central South Carolina - near the intersection of Interstates 95 and 26. The nearly $200,000 came from special donations from the group's hotel members.
"I think it's a testament to how strongly we feel about its importance as a marketing tool," Hill said.