Charleston ranked No. 1 US city by Travel + Leisure readers for 6th year in a row

July 10, 2018

Post & Courier

Charleston is the No. 1 city  in the U.S. for the sixth year in a row, according to readers of Travel + Leisure magazine.

Charleston also made the list of the World’s Top 15 Cities. At No. 10, it’s the only U.S. city to make the list this year. In 2016, Charleston was voted the world’s top city.

The results of the 2018 World’s Best Awards survey were announced Tuesday morning on The Today Show.

Charleston keeps winning because it doesn’t just tout its history but is always coming up with something new, according to Travel + Leisure Editor in Chief Nathan Lump.

“This is a city not content to rest on its laurels as one of the most beautiful and well-preserved historic urban environments in the country,” Lump said in a statement before the award was announced. “Thanks to a creative local population intent on creating world-class experiences, there is always something new and exciting going on here, from a vibrant cultural scene to innovative food and drink to fresh takes on style and design.”

Linn Lesesne, board chair of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, called the award “a reminder that Charleston’s charm shines brightly through its people, historic streetscape, award-winning restaurants, world-class accommodations, pristine beaches, culture and shopping scene.”

The magazine’s readers picked Kiawah Island — a beachfront resort that’s part of the greater Charleston area — as the nation’s No. 3 island destination, up from No. 10 last year.

While the city remains a favorite destination for visitors, residents often worry that the increasing number of hotels and amenities for upscale tourists threaten the quality of life of those who live here.

For example, at least 20 more hotels are either under construction or in the design phase on the peninsula, with more in the pipeline in Mount Pleasant and North Charleston. Planners have been grappling with ways to limit their impact on traffic and keep a healthy mix of residential, commercial and retail.

Helen Hill, the Visitors Bureau’s CEO, stressed that tourism creates business and keeps property taxes low for residents.

“Tourism drives tremendous direct and indirect economic growth in a community,” she said. “The competition has never been greater for these national accolades and the associated downstream benefits for a region. A stronger tax base generated by hospitality and tourism reduces some of the pressure on property taxes within our local communities.”

The College of Charleston’s Office of Tourism Analysis estimates the economic impact of tourism in the greater Charleston area last year at $7.4 billion, employing 40,000 workers.

Charleston County Aviation Authority CEO Paul Campbell observed that these awards prompt airlines to add flights and lower prices, which not only bring in more visitors but also benefit residents who travel.

“We strongly believe this expanded service improves the quality of life for local residents as we simultaneously serve the needs of the business community,” he said.

Travel + Leisure readers also picked their top Charleston hotels for 2018. They are the French Quarter Inn, HarbourView Inn, John Rutledge House Inn, Market Pavilion Hotel, Planters Inn, The Dewberry, The Spectator, The Vendue, Wentworth Mansion and Zero George.

The 2018 World’s Best Awards will be in the August issue of Travel + Leisure, on newstands July 27. They will be online at The twitter hashtags for conversations on the subject are #tlworldsbest and #explorecharleston.