Most public money to promote tourism in the Lowcountry is derived from one of three sources.
2 percent state accommodations tax
Where it comes from: Levied on overnight lodging throughout the state.
Where it goes:
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The state takes cuts for administrative fees, 11 regional tourism groups and economically disadvantaged counties.
Beaufort County and its municipalities then receive $25,000 each for their general funds.
Of the remainder, each local government receives 5 percent for its general fund.
Thirty percent must be "used for advertising and promotion of tourism." Each county and municipality must, by state law, select a group or groups -- such as a chamber of commerce or visitors bureau -- to be its "designated marketing organization" and oversee this money.
The remainder, plus interest, must go to a special fund and be used "for tourism-related expenditures," which can include advertising and promotion of tourism; promotion of the arts and cultural events; construction, maintenance and operation of facilities for civic and cultural activities; police, fire and garbage service required to accommodate tourists; control and repair of waterfront erosion; and operating visitor-information centers. All local governments except the town of Port Royal, which collects less than $50,000 in the tax and is therefore exempt, must appoint a committee to recommend how this money is spent.
3 percent local accommodations tax
Where it comes from: Levied on overnight lodging throughout the county and its municipalities. Capped at 3 percent by state law.
Where it goes:
All revenues must be kept separate from each local government's general fund and used exclusively for tourism-related buildings, such as civic centers; tourism-related cultural, recreational or historic facilities; beach access or renourishment; highways, roads, streets, and bridges providing access to tourist destinations; advertisements and promotions related to tourism development; water and sewer infrastructure to serve tourism-related demand; or police, fire protection, emergency medical services and emergency-preparedness operations "directly attendant to those facilities."
Some governments devote some revenues from the tax to tourism marketing; others spend it for other purposes, such as parks or hospitality training programs.
2 percent local hospitality tax
Where it comes from: Levied on prepared food and beverages throughout the county and its municipalities. Capped at 2 percent by state law.
Where it goes:
All revenues must be kept separate from each local government's general fund and used exclusively for the same purposes as local accommodations tax. Some governments devote some revenues from the tax to tourism marketing; others spend it on things such as street maintenance, public safety and capital projects.