MB will have to fight harder for tourists in '09 - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

MB will have to fight harder for tourists in '09

By Brandon Herring - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The financial crisis leaving so many Americans out of work and short on money has lots of people in the Grand Strand worried tighter budgets will mean fewer tourists in the area.

Some say the struggling economy could make or break the upcoming tourist season. Great deals here could bring lots of vacationers to the beach, but better deals elsewhere could have people heading to other hot spots.

"We're looking at a year in tourism terms that is really ugly," John Pelletier explained Wednesday.

Pelletier is the Chairman of Equation Research. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce asked Pelletier to look into the 2009 visitation outlook for the area.  

Pelletier presented his research to the Chamber on Wedneday. He explained the current economic downturn comes at a time when Myrtle Beach was making great strides in attracting new visitors.

However, now the area is faced with a recession that economist Dr. Donald Schunk said could cause people to spend about 10 percent less in 2009.

"That translates into about 400 million dollars in lost revenue for local businesses in Horry and Georgetown County," Schunk said. "It could spell the loss of about 7,000 jobs in the two county area."

Pelletier said although it will be a down year, Myrtle Beach can still attract visitors if local businesses offer discounts and there's sufficient marketing to let people know about the low prices in the area.

Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean worries about the marketing side of that equation. He pointed out that the state cut funds for tourism marketing.

"Our biggest challenge is we don't have enough money to capture, create, and maintain the awareness that we need," Dean said. "That's going to be a challenge not only this year, but in future years beyond."

Pelletier warned if businesses can't find a way to get that message of affordability out there, tourists could overlook Myrtle Beach in 2009.

Because less money is available, Dean said the Chamber and local businesses will have to narrow their targets for marketing campaigns.  However, if they can do that successfully, he hopes Myrtle Beach will attract travelers who would normally head elsewhere.

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