Haley comments cause tourism concern in Myrtle Beach

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Comments from South Carolina governor Nikki Haley have some Myrtle Beach leaders worried she could hurt tourism. Haley recently spoke out again about the city's one-cent tourism tax, saying two conferences have decided to leave the state because of it.

Haley has made it clear she does not want to see more locally added sales taxes. In particular she has pointed to Myrtle Beach's one percent tax to pay for tourism marketing. When visiting Broadway at the Beach last week she claimed that tax has already resulted in two conferences moving out of South Carolina.

"Blackbaud was going to come to South Carolina and do their conference, and because the taxes were too high they went and had it in another state," Haley said.

She also claimed the state's National Guard Association decided to have its conference in Asheville, North Carolina instead of the Grand Strand.

"They told me it's cheaper in Asheville than it is in Myrtle Beach," she said.

Those claims got the attention of Myrtle Beach City Council members. So they called in Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean for a clarification Tuesday.

"I think Governor Haley has been misinformed," Dean said. "She's been given very bad inaccurate information, and she's obviously making some decisions based on that. Really today it was just to clarify some of the misinformation that she's been given and hopefully shed some light on the benefits of the tourism fee not only to the Grand Strand, but the entire state of South Carolina."

Apparently Haley was wrong. The software company called Blackbaud that she mentioned told The Horry Independent that the tax rate had nothing to do with moving the conference. The company is based in Charleston and had its conference there until two years ago. It then moved the conference to Washington, DC to be closer to some key potential customers.

The National Guard Association rotates its conference between cities and will return to Myrtle Beach in 2013.

"The urgency today was to make sure we corrected this misinformation," Dean said Tuesday. "We don't want Governor Haley misleading people who might believe that she knows the real information."

Dean said his figures show overall tourism and conferences have been up the last two years. After his presentation to city council today, council members decided to press Haley to visit Myrtle Beach to discuss the tax and a tourism plan that she has promised.

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved.