MB business weigh in on NMB tourism tax

Myrtle Beach, SC - By Brandon Herring - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As North Myrtle Beach leaders consider adding a 1 percent tax in the city for tourism promotion, some businesses in Myrtle Beach have mixed feeling on if that is a good idea.

Myrtle Beach has had a 1 percent tourism tax since Aug. 1, 2009, and in its first 10 months, the tax brought in more than $14 million in extra money. More recent figures have not been released.

The $14 million has been used for extra advertising aimed at attracting more visitors to Myrtle Beach. Some of the extra money will also be used to lower property tax rates for City of Myrtle Beach homeowners.

"One percent to me doesn't really - it hasn't affected me that much," Loretta King, who was visiting from Ohio Thursday, commented. "We just pay it because it's our vacation. So we give a little extra sometimes."

While King and some other visitors to Myrtle Beach say the extra tax has not kept them away or cut back on their spending, the tax is something some business owners worry about. At the Sea Hawk motel, Fred Smith said his customers are watching their dollars by putting more people in rooms and bringing their own food.

"Certainly the economy is part of it," Smith said. "Certainly people without jobs is part of it, but I feel like the extra taxes - and they tell us that [we] put a bind on [them]."

The owners of the House Parts store do not support the tourism tax either. They get a mix of locals and tourists in their downtown store, and they say they have not seen a benefit from the tax.

"We really haven't seen much of an up-tick in tourist traffic," Andrew Paulussen said. "It's been pretty consistent to years past."

Paulussen said he often finds himself giving his customers a discount to make up for the extra tax. He also thinks North Myrtle Beach should not start a tourism tax for another reason.

"The out of town visitor to this region doesn't have a real distinction between Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach and the south end," he said. "What Myrtle Beach is already doing as far as out-market advertising benefits the entire area, if there's a true benefit to be had."

At the Locals Corner restaurant, the owner says he is not seeing a trickle-down affect either. He said he worries that the tax is more of a burden than a help to the area.

"The more money you get out of locals, the more you raise their taxes the less they're going to spend," commented Blerin Kuqo.

However, at the Ocean's One resort, the manager said Myrtle Beach has to pay for advertising outside the area to attract visitors. He said it is too early to really measure the results, but other destinations already have the tax, so Myrtle Beach needs to keep up.

"It's hard to take a one year or two year snapshot of it and figure out how effective it is, but I can tell you in the long run it's the way we had to go," explained Ray Booth. "If you drawing enough people to Myrtle Beach with the dollars that we market with will offset the people that we lose that don't want to pay the tax, then it's a win."

The research for North Myrtle Beach shows a tourism tax there could bring in millions of dollars, and 80 percent of the tax would be paid by visitors. It estimates locals would pay about $57 in extra tax each year if it is passed.

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