Midlands businesses prepared to welcome people escaping Dorian with open arms

One professor says more people visit the Midlands during the last few storm cycles

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —As Hurricane Dorian moves closer to the East Coast, more people are expected to come from coastal communities to the Midlands.

Over the last few storm cycles, Rich Harrill, the Director of the University of South Carolina’s International Tourism Research Institute, says the Midlands have welcomed more people looking to find shelter away from the coast.

“There’s people in Florida already saying to themselves, ‘Let’s go to Columbia for a while.’ We have a great brand. Statewide, we have a fantastic brand. People love South Carolina,” Harrill said.

Groups like Experience Columbia provide guidance to restaurants and hotels to prepare for an uptick in people coming through their doors.

With many people looking at inland options to escape the storm surge, Harrill says many businesses stand to gain more customers.

“It’s tickets. It’s gasoline. It’s hotel nights. It’s a lot of different things that people purchase. It’s restaurant reservations. We would see impacts from all of those things,” Harrill said.

Harrill says giving people refuge from storms will play a role in them coming back to the Midlands in the future.

“If you come and have a fantastic experience, no matter the circumstances, that impression is in their mind and they’ll probably come back,” said Harrill.

Many businesses say they want people to be safe when they move away from the storm, but if they choose to come to the Midlands, they will do their part to make them feel welcome.

“We want people to come and feel safe. Our doors are open. Our arms are open for the public. We want people to come to Columbia, South Carolina. If you come here, we’ll take care of you,” Harrill said.

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