The South Carolina welcome center in Hardeeville, about 4 miles north of the Georgia border, is often used by weary travelers trekking up Interstate 95.
With nearly a million visitors each year, the center is the most visited of the nine scattered around the Palmetto State, according to the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism spokesman Marion Edmonds.
And now the state has decided that it and the eight other S.C. welcome centers are ready for an upgrade.
On July 1, control of the centers was transferred from the S.C. Department of Transportation to the parks, recreation and tourism department, which previously was responsible only for the buildings' interior. Now, exterior landscaping and parking areas will be the tourism department's responsibility, as well, Edmonds said.
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The legislature also redirected $3.2 million from the DOT to the tourism department, and more money will be provided for renovations. The renovation money had originally been set aside to attract filmmakers to the state.
About $1 million of that money will go toward renovating the Landrum welcome center, located in Spartanburg County on Interstate 26 near the North Carolina border, Edmonds said. The center is expected to be renovated this year, Edmonds said.
The $3.2 million transferred in the state budget will be used for daily operations and maintenance at all of the welcome centers, he said.
After the center is renovated, a schedule for the other welcome centers' renovations will be developed.
From July 2012 to July 2013, 1.2 million visitors were assisted by staff members at the welcome centers, and countless more passed through to use their facilities.
The centers, staffed by tourism department employees, include bathrooms and amenities that the state's dozen rest areas also offer, but are separate from those facilities, which the DOT will continue to operate.
Most of the welcome centers are along the interstate highways near South Carolina's border.
Integrating technology in the older welcome centers is a large part of the tourism department's plans, including connecting to travelers' smartphones to give them recommendations and information about attractions in the area, Edmonds said.
However, interaction with the welcome center's employees will still be key, he said.
"Our employees average about 14 years of service in the industry," Edmonds said. "They are far and away the most knowledgeable people about South Carolina."
Cassie Cope of The (Columbia) State contributed to this report. Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.