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Columbia, SC, the Perfect Destination for Business or Pleasure

Columbia is the perfect place to visit, host a meeting or set up shop. 

By Livability on September 22, 2022

Tubing in Columbia, SC
Forrest Clonts

Ensuring others have fun takes a lot of hard work, but the payoff comes in generating awareness and economic impact. 

Promoting Columbia as a great place to live, work and play is a team effort fueled by a love of this charming Southern city. 

So Much Fun 

More than 250 years of history have shaped Columbia and turned it into a Southern hot spot. 

From urban districts featuring chic shops and galleries to exciting outdoor adventures, there’s plenty of places to visit in Columbia, S.C. 

Home to the University of South Carolina, sports lovers always have something to cheer about, and the creative energy that comes with being a college town infuses Columbia’s vibrant arts and entertainment scene. 

“We have the unique advantage of being a state capital and major university destination,” says Bill Ellen, president and CEO of Experience Columbia SC. “We offer an abundance of outdoor, cultural and culinary activities year round.” 

Ellen adds the hospitality industry serves as a major employer and revenue generator. 

“The Columbia region welcomes nearly 15 million visitors annually with an economic impact of $2.3 billion,” he notes. 

Columbia, SC

Meeting Expectations 

Cheryl Swanson, vice president and general manager for the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, says the meeting sector plays a key role in that economic impact. 

The downtown center features a 23,700-square-foot exhibit hall, ballroom and breakout rooms to accommodate both small meetings and large events. 

“We’re in walking distance not only of the State Capitol but also the University of South Carolina and some of the finest restaurants, hotels and shopping in Columbia,” Swanson adds. 

When the pandemic disrupted plans, Swanson and her team quickly adjusted protocols and implemented industry-leading best practices, keeping the convention center open, effective and safe. 

“We became GBAC-certified, which sets a national standard for cleaning,” Swanson says of meeting the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s rigorous requirements. 

“We’re coming back quicker than most,” she adds of booked business. “The value is more than just dollars. A venue like this is not only an economic driver — it also provides vibrancy to the city.” 

Making a Move 

“In addition to the hospitality industry generating revenue from visitors, it’s also a potential for future economic opportunity,” says Kay Hampton, deputy director of the City of Columbia’s Economic Development Office. 

Visiting, she notes, builds awareness of Columbia as an authentic, diverse, accessible city with year-round activity. 

“If you’re here on a Saturday morning, you get to see our entrepreneurial spirit on display at Soda City Market,” Hampton says of the showcase for regional makers and producers. “We’ve had 12 vendors now open brick and mortar stores.” 

That creative, innovative spirit has also attracted nearly $1 billion in investment over the past two years with more to come. 

“Our start-up scene is transforming! We’ve had well-known tech founders working with our existing founders to expand our entrepreneurial ecosystem, and you can feel the excitement,” Hampton concludes. 

Experience Columbia SC 

Whether scouting the destination for a vacation, meeting or development site, tap into area expertise. 

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