The RBC Heritage continues to help Hilton Head Island, SC capture a valuable tourism market segment

John SalazarWritten by:  John Salazar, PhD

This week the golf and tourism industries are at the front and center of our regional economy. In 1969 Hilton Head Island, SC hosted the first Heritage Classic which is now referred to as the RBC Heritage. It is South Carolina’s only annually held tournament stop on the PGA tour. In 2010, a Clemson/University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) study indicated that the tournament had an $80 million plus impact on Beaufort County. Since the first tournament, Hilton Head Island has been inextricably linked to the golf tourism market.

So how do golf visitors compare to non golfers to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton community? Through a partnership with the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, USCB’s Lowcountry and Resort Islands Tourism Institute (LRITI) has been able to conduct a preliminary comparison using the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Virtual Guestbook results. The virtual guestbook was implemented to collect real time data from visitors to the area between February 15, 2012 and February 15, 2013. The data collection method incorporated a convenience sampling technique that polled visitors at various attractions throughout Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, SC. Computer tablets were used as the guestbook polling stations.

The results showed that 69% (446) of the 646 entries were by visitors from outside the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton/Beaufort/Savannah region. The visitors were also asked about their spending patterns at various attractions and events throughout the community. Fourteen percent (14%) of the visitors indicated that they spent money on playing golf in addition to many other activities. Of the 14%, some interesting market segment details arose when comparing the golf playing visitors to the non-golf visitors in the following characteristics: number of previous trips to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton region, length of stay, advanced booking, and total number of activities. The golf playing visitors have more previous visits to the area (3.7 previous visits), have a 6.7 day length of stay, book their trips 4.7 months in advance, and spend money on more activities (average 4.1 activities per trip). Whereas, the non-golf visitors previously vacationed in the area 2.9 times, have a 5.4 average length of stay, book 3.3 months in advance, and spend money on 3.1 activities per trip.

So what does all this mean? The research results show that the golf visitor is an important market to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton tourism economy because they return to the region more often than non-golfers, stay longer, and spend money on more activities. Additionally, the golf visitors book their trips further in advance, therefore providing an early guarantee of their intent to travel to our destination. Declaring this early travel intent is good for tourism operators because it becomes an indicator of future business. In the end, the golf visitor market continues to be important to the community and the 45th 2013 RBC Heritage provides ongoing support toward reaching this important market segment.

Below is a link to the 2010 Heritage Golf Tournament Economic Impact Report. For information regarding other reports contact

This blog is focused on advancing the efforts of the Lowcountry hospitality and tourism industry. John Salazar, Ph.D. is a Professor of Hospitality Management at University of South Carolina Beaufort and Director of the LRITI. The Institute’s website can be found at The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual author and do not reflect any official policy or statement by the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

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44 Responses to The RBC Heritage continues to help Hilton Head Island, SC capture a valuable tourism market segment

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