MB Chamber data: 4 Million NEW visitors came to MB in 2010

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - More than 14 million visitors came flocking to Myrtle Beach last year for fun and sun and now we're hearing for the first time, 4 million of those were new visitors to the Grand Strand.

That research came from an independent company Equation Research. It's not only used for transparency reasons, it also helps the Chamber tweak its marketing plans and hopefully convince the public and local officials advertising money is well worth the investment.

The data shows not only are more people coming here, but more importantly they spent about 12% more in 2010. Another bright spot, the number of new visitors visiting for the first time like Jan and Carol Raabe was up from 25% in 2009 to 33% in 2010. "I had never really heard of Myrtle Beach until our neighbors told us that they had been vacationing down here for two or three weeks every winter," says Carol Raabe.

Between that, word of mouth, and marketing efforts throughout the state markets, the chamber says the 1% tourism tax is paying off.

"It's always proven in the Grand Strand that if we want to get something done here, we have to invest in ourselves. And we're not sure what the critics don't like, more tourists, more jobs, a better economy, improved infrastructure or lower property taxes," says Brad Dean, President of the MB Area Chamber of Commerce.

But WMBF did find a few small hotels in the Grand Strand who say the tax isn't for all.

Karon Mitchell of Chesterfield Inn has been in the hotel business for 34 years. She says when member dues and the price for marketing with the chamber doubled in 2009, she couldn't afford to keep her membership. So she dropped out and even though she pays into the tax pot, she says she doesn't see any of the benefits coming back her way.

"I'm going to be honest with you, I ask my guests or when they check-in, how did they hear about us. I'm not getting anything from visitmyrtlebeach.com. It's not because of the tax dollars that they're spending to help me," says Karon Mitchell, owner of Chesterfield Inn in Myrtle Beach.

Mitchell says her books look pretty solid for the upcoming season, but she only attributes that to her hard work marketing the Chesterfield Inn, which remains the oldest oceanfront hotel in Myrtle Beach.

For the full presentation by Equation Research, go to www.myrtlebeachareamarketing.com

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