updated 3/27/2007 3:56:05 PM ET 2007-03-27T19:56:05

A South Carolina vacation typically conjures thoughts of carriage rides through Charleston, seaside walks past high-rise Myrtle Beach hotels and golf along wind-swept marshes on Hilton Head Island.

But South Carolina also wants visitors to think of its small town bed-and-breakfasts, whitewater rafting and mountain trails that wind past waterfalls.

"Tourism has done very well in South Carolina but unlike a lot of other mature industries, we have really only scraped the surface," said Chad Prosser, director of the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. "There is a lot more potential to be recognized."

Coastal counties are the heart of the state's $16 billion tourism industry. But a consultant's report released by the tourism department this year suggests the state's largest industry could grow to $40 billion by 2020.

It said the state needs to increase marketing overall but should also, among other things, provide incentives for businesses investing in tourism in inland areas.

"The product we have on the coast has a certain carrying capacity," Prosser said. "We don't want to diminish the coastal product by overrunning it."

The study suggested increasing publicity about inland destinations, which include everything from fishing on the Santee Cooper lakes in the eastern part of the state to rafting on the Chattooga River along the Georgia border to visiting small towns with galleries, inns and a slower pace of life.

"It does seem to me the coast is perhaps more emphasized than the smaller inland towns and villages," said Barbara Miller, who with her husband runs the Barklin House Bed and Breakfast a few blocks from the opera house in Newberry. "Of course it's an entirely different experience."

Promoting inland areas might attract a different type of tourist, she added.

"I would hope that it might increase tourism to South Carolina by folks who are not smitten with sitting around in the hot sun," she said.

Jack Wise, chief executive of a whitewater rafting company based in Long Creek, S.C., said more tourism is welcome, but cautioned that visitors won't find living as easy as they do along the shore.

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"If you walk the beaches of South Carolina there is business after business after business catering to surfing, food, drinks, lodging," he said. "Everything is there."

Others warn that there's a balance between increasing tourist visits and abusing the land that will attract them. "We need to tread lightly in getting bigger numbers because then we destroy the very thing we are promoting," said Tim Todd, executive director of the Discover Upcountry Carolina Association. "More is better in a lot of cases, but not all cases. Having said that, we do think there are opportunities that are untapped up here."

Back in Newberry, Miller says part of the effort should be to get visitors to experience something new. "Experiencing the unknown is part of the fun," she said.

"I'm not sure folks consider staying at a bed-and-breakfast is part of the experience of a small town. It's like you're living there for a couple of days," Miller said. "You sit on the porch and watch the traffic go by and talk to other folks who are traveling through."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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