CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Many call the Southeast Wildlife Exposition the unofficial kick off to Charleston's tourism season. SEWE draws a crowd of nearly 40,000 people and 60 million dollars in annual economic impact. "They estimate that about 60% of our visitors come from outside the Charleston metro area," said Ashley Slane, marketing manager for SEWE, "and, of those a vast majority do stay in paid lodging. So, that's a hug boost to the local economy."
The Holiday Inn in West Ashley knows first-hand the kind of boost SEWE brings. "We sold out Friday night, sold out Saturday night and Sunday nights looking very close as well," said Rebecca Ruttiger, general manager. Ruttiger says about 70 percent of the hotels' occupants are attending SEWE. "SEWE comes and we try to do some type of packaging. But, Southeast Wildlife just brings its own draw of people, so we don't have to do a whole lot," said Ruttiger.