Group works to market Beaufort as wellness destination

emoody@beaufortgazette.comDecember 8, 2013 

A group of Beaufort officials and residents wants to market the city as a wellness destination for visitors who want to be healthy.

It's a perfect place for it, said Beaufort Memorial Hospital LifeFit manager Kim Yawn.

"We're living in such a wonderful small town where you can go outside in December in short sleeves," she said.

About half a dozen residents, including Mayor Billy Keyserling, are testing the idea.

They spent a week working with LifeFit, doing health tests, working out and meeting with nutritionists and other professionals. They also took part in outdoor activities, such as biking.

Keyserling, who said he has been tossing around the idea for years, is working with LifeFit and the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce on the program. It would be sold as an add-on package to hotel rooms.

"You ought to be able to come to Beaufort, check in to a rental and have a schedule for the period of time you're going to be here," Keyserling said.

Visitors would check in on a Sunday and receive a list of places they need to go, things they need to do and suggestions and information about biking trails, kayaking, historic walking tours and other physical activities, Yawn said.

"We're trying to educate people to be healthy, but in a fun way," she said.

People could jog on the Spanish Moss Trail, walk the Parish Church of St. Helena graveyard, kayak the Beaufort River and participate in other activities without leaving the area, Keyserling said.

Other possibilities include providing bikes for tourists to ride during the visit, deals for healthy meals -- even having a nutritionist cook for them if their accommodations have a kitchen.

It's a way to add benefits and attractions, without detracting from the small-town charm, chamber tourism division director Robb Wells said.

"I think one of the biggest issues in Beaufort is the perception that there's not enough to do," he said. "You don't have to add Ferris wheels and carnival rides to do that."

The test participants will meet this week to discuss their experiences and ideas on how the program could work. Wells hopes to have the package pieced together and its promotion underway by spring.

How much such a vacation would cost will be determined. Yawn estimated the value of the LifeFit component at $600 to $800 alone.

However, Wells said, it would not be a low-cost vacation.

"If someone is already coming in for a full week, they're already paying $2 grand anyway, so the package isn't that much on top of it," he said.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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