New Study Highlights $34 Billion Tourism Opportunity and Strong Traveler Interest in Black History and Culture
Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida Stand to Benefit
CHARLESTON, S.C., Oct. 13, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a National Heritage Area, released initial findings from a new market survey report that indicates traveler interest in visiting the region’s Gullah Geechee and African American heritage sites is strong.
The report was prepared by Mandala Research which valued the potential leisure spend for the four states that make up the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida – at $34B. The report also revealed strong name recognition among travelers nationwide for Gullah Geechee culture indicating the immense potential for encouraging more heritage and cultural tourism to the Corridor.
This new report was privately funded by the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and is the first to explore the national market for Gullah Geechee heritage tourism. It is poised to be an important driver for community-driven historic and cultural preservation, new educational programs, and economic investment in Gullah Geechee businesses. Findings in the report were based on a national, market survey of 1,000 U.S. leisure travelers conducted in June of this year in addition to stakeholder meetings and interviews with Gullah Geechee community members and tourism officials.
Key to the findings was that African American heritage is strong motivator for travel and just under a quarter of all travelers (24%) expressed a strong interest in visiting sites in the South that are of historic significance to African Americans. Overall, the relative importance of African American culture in choice of a destination is high with 36% of all travelers ranking it either “very important” or “somewhat important,” and African Americans (50%) and Millennials (49%) statistically more likely to say it has this level of importance.
Looking specifically at Gullah Geechee destinations, the survey found that 37% of travelers who lived in nearby states (the “drive market”) were familiar with Gullah Geechee culture and that 51% of African American Culture Enthusiast were aware of it. Levels of awareness were also high among African Americans, LGBTQ, Millennials, and affluent travelers.
The report also sheds light on the most desired cultural experiences. “Experiencing local cuisine” was cited by 65% of the travelers surveyed setting the stage for more investment in educating Americans about traditional Gullah Geechee foodways and creating more cross-cultural, culinary experiences around Gullah Geechee restaurants, farms, and chefs.
The St. Simons African American Historic Coalition operates the Historic Harrington School museum and cultural center on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Last year, they added a Gullah Geechee food festival to their programming. It is one of the many Gullah Geechee heritage sites that will benefit from data in this report as it begins to re-open and welcome visitors.
“There is enormous potential for Gullah Geechee heritage tourism to directly benefit Gullah Geechee communities and to support local preservation and conservation initiatives. This report provides the data and insights we need to collaborate with communities to reach their tourism goals,” said Heather L. Hodges, Executive Director, Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
The report’s findings were applauded by the Congressman responsible for the creation of the national, Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
“I am pleased this report indicates the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is poised to create economic opportunity for the communities within the Corridor while educating more people about this rich culture,” said U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC). “I introduced the legislation creating this National Heritage Area to help preserve this important culture and create heritage sites that could become touchstones for attracting tourists.”
A free copy of the report is available on request at gullahgeecheecorridor.org.
The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is a federal, National Heritage Area that spans 12,000 square miles of the Lower Atlantic coastline of the United States. The National Heritage Area program is managed by the U.S. National Park Service. National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape. The purpose of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor NHA is to preserve, share and interpret the history, traditional cultural practices, heritage sites, and natural resources associated with Gullah Geechee people of coastal North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Visit us at gullahgeecheecorridor.org.