Credit: Tanasia Kenney

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds in Columbia has given the Palmetto State a much-needed tourism boost. A new study out of the University of South Carolina’s SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism found that more than half of out-of-state Black travelers said their desire to visit the state increased when the controversial flag came down.

We need to recognize that the fear of racial discrimination is real,” Simon Hudson, who serves as director of the SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism, says. “As tourism providers, we need to better understand travelers from a diverse array of backgrounds and be able to cater to their particular interests and needs.”

According to the analysis, a 5 percent increase in tourism among African-Americans would produce $118 million in extra revenue for the state. As a whole, Black tourists tout an economic impact of roughly $2.4 billion just in the state of South Carolina.

For many, the flag was a bitter reminder of the slavery, segregation and racial discrimination that plagued the South for decades. On July 9, 2015, South Carolina voted to remove the flag from its state capitol grounds, sparking efforts to eradicate the controversial symbol nationwide.

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