Spoleto fest winds up; tourism brisk

If a troubled economy and record gas prices are affecting tourism and travel, it was hard to tell during the Spoleto Festival USA winding up its 17-day run this weekend.

Ticket sales to the internationally known arts festival have been brisk and business at local hotels and restaurants strong.

“Charleston is just a little resilient to anything that happens to the economy,” said Steve Kish, an owner of the popular 82 Queen restaurant and president of the local restaurant association.

May at 82 Queen was “as good or better than any other year,” said Kish, though he noted the festival generally draws more affluent visitors who aren't hurt as much by economic swings.

Festival General Director Nigel Redden said single-ticket sales have been brisk, although the Spoleto budget has been hurt because public and corporate donations are down, as are group sales.

“Single ticket sales are the best we have ever had,” said Redden. “But people are waiting to the last minute, which makes me tear my hair out; what little of it is left.”

The festival, which featured productions including “Monkey: Journey to the West” and a revised production of the opera “Amistad,” closes Sunday with a concert and fireworks display at Middleton Place Plantation.

As the festival opened, Spoleto renewed ties with the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. Both arts festivals were founded by the late composer Gian Carlo Menotti.