MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF)
Our tourism economy got a boost from the Memorial Day Weekend visitors. Several hotels along the Grand Strand reached 100% occupancy with some being overbooked. Rates were higher this year than last but people were willing to pay more to stay at the beach. Some paid higher prices and were not on the beach. Room rates like the La Quinta Inn ranged from $129-$189.
Some hotel managers said the weekend was relatively calm with police clientele who were not disruptive. Others saw a violent spike in crime. There were some guests at hotels who complained because of the rowdy behavior along the boulevard throughout the night. Some families said they would probably pick a different week to visit next year, but it would not affect their decision to visit Myrtle Beach again.
La Quinta Inn Manager Jane Slattery says, "You know they're always going to take a vacation no matter what the rate is but they're just not going to stay as long. Most people did two days so they will pay the rate but they'll cut a day off their stay or they might not go to a restaurant but they are still going to come. I think it's going to be a great summer."
Some locals blame the increased amount of crime on the higher number of tourists but hotel owners say those numbers are vital to putting food on the table. Restaurants also saw their numbers explode with some establishments seeing a 20% increase in sales. Restaurant owners tell me they have about a 6 month window to make their money and whatever they make has to get them through the slower months.
This weekend was the big test to see how the economy and gas prices would affect travel. Businesses tell me they got a lot of last minute tourists who came down from North Carolina or other cities in South Carolina which helped fill bars and restaurants. Those trying to get a meal had to have some patience as wait lines increased. Restaurant owners are already looking forward to next year, even with some of the distractions of bike week.
Denny's Director of Operations Mel Estep says, "The more people coming in, the more tax not only the one percent but the other sales tax itself. I think it's a win-win situation and as a local do I like the noise of the motorcycles, no I'm not great on that but it's a few weeks and it does help the businesses survive that are here." Businesses tell me they are hopeful this is a forecast of a very successful summer.