Last year, Charleston was flattered. This year, it's on top of the world.
Readers of Conde Nast Traveler not only named the Holy City the No. 1 tourist destination in the U.S. for the second year in a row, but also the top travel city on the planet.
"It was a giant surprise for us," said Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's an honor to be in the top three, but to be No. 1 twice in the U.S. is unbelievable. And to be named No. 1 city in the world, you can't do any better than that."
Hilton Head Island and three local resorts also are included on the magazine's lists that tourism officials say will help raise the area's profile and boost tourism.
Conde Nast readers ranked Hilton Head eighth on a list of the top 10 islands in the country. Maui, Hawaii, topped the list.
The Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton was ranked first among the top 20 resorts in the South. The list also featured Sea Pines Resort's Inn at Harbour Town, at 11th, and Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, at 17th. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff also was ranked 17th on Conde Nast's list of the world's top 100 hotels and resorts.
Tourism officials called the inclusion of the local destinations on the magazine's lists "the ultimate third-party endorsement."
"Appearing on these lists really raises our profile and raises the awareness of our area among savvy travelers," Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Area Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Charlie Clark said. "In today's economy, these lists are more important than ever. These are readers' choice awareness, and travelers listen to travelers."
The accolades are not new.
Last year, the Inn at Harbour Town was among the top 150 resorts by Conde Nast Traveler, and Hilton Head Island has been named among its top 10 islands.
The Inn at Palmetto Bluff was included on Conde Nast's Traveler Gold List as one of the world's best places to stay last year, when it also won AAA's five-diamond award as one of North America's most luxurious accommodations.
Charleston also has been prominently mentioned by Conde Nast readers, ranking third in the world in 2011 behind Sydney, Australia, and Florence, Italy.
Readers of the world-renowned travel magazine chose Charleston for the accolade based on overall ambiance, culture, friendliness, lodging, restaurants and shopping.
The (Charleston) Post and Courier contributed to this report.