2010 summer hotel occupancy numbers up on SC’s Grand Strand thanks to ads, new flights

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

2010 summer good for tourism on SC’s Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Officials along the Grand Strand say business this summer has been solid after a couple of tough years at South Carolina’s most popular vacation destination.

Tourism researchers at Coastal Carolina University found hotel occupancy is up 8 percent this summer and attractions like Broadway at the Beach reported a steady increase in customers, according to a story Monday by The Sun News of Myrtle Beach.

The increase in tourists should lead to higher hotel rates and jump start other parts of the economy around Myrtle Beach. Construction on new hotels could begin again in a couple of years, said Taylor Damonte, director of the Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism at Coastal Carolina University.

“The big picture is that we are now in the beginning stages of the new business cycle,” Damonte told the newspaper.

Credit for the increase in tourists goes to several different factors, said Brad Dean, president and chief executive of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

The airport added direct flights to Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Chicago, while tourism officials increased advertising, including trying to lure visitors leery of going to the Gulf of Mexico because of the oil spill. The ads emphasized Myrtle Beach as an affordable destination for people on a tight budget, Dean said.

“The last 18 months have been some of the most challenging times for our local industry,” Dean told the newspaper. “We’ve seen the turnaround, and we’ve been faring much better than other destinations. 2010 has turned out to be a good year, which we’ve desperately needed.”

The key for the Grand Strand for next summer will be getting people who came to the area for the first time to return. The area will continue to promote its attractions like the new boardwalk that opened this year near downtown Myrtle Beach, Dean said.

“The attitude down there is like 180 degrees different. They are sprucing up businesses, investing capital in their businesses. They’re thinking about change for next year,” said Ripley’s Attractions Myrtle Beach General Manager Peter MacIntyre, who has several attraction in the area.

There are mixed signs to whether the good summer will lead to a good fall. The first half of September appears to be going well, but Damonte’s survey of the tourism industry indicates weaker occupancy in the last half of September.

But Damonte points out that period often sees late bookings from people who decide to travel at the last minute.

Information from: The Sun News, www.thesunnews.com/

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