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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- This weekend marks the unofficial start of the spring tourism season in South Carolina.

The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition is under way in Charleston and each year the show brings around 40,000 visitors to the city. The expo features everything from sporting dog competitions to displays of wildlife and exhibits of wildlife art.

In Myrtle Beach, this weekend brings the Myrtle Beach Marathon. That event last year drew about 8,000 runners to its various races. A researcher at Coastal Carolina University says hotel occupancy could rise to nearly 80 percent in the area this weekend.

Tourism is a $15 billion industry in South Carolina.

Tourism officials say this may be the year the industry finally returns to levels of visitors seen before the Great Recession.

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