Irene, AAA prediction may not be major problem for tourism

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - AAA predicts Labor Day travel will be down nationwide this year compared to last year.   The dip in travel for Labor Day will be mostly because fewer people are flying this year according to AAA.

A prediction like that combined with the threat of Hurricane Irene could bring a disappointing end to the summer tourism season in the Grand Strand. However, AAA expects there will actually be a small increase in people driving to vacation. So a major driving destination like Myrtle Beach may not be hurt.

At the Hampton Inn and Suites on South Ocean Boulevard the storm has caused a few cancellations for the weekend. Manager Andrew Gorman said because of Irene the staff is being more flexible with guests thinking about canceling.

"We will refund the deposit back, but some of the guests we're telling them wait 'til the day of even because you never know," Gorman said.

He says they are still getting last-minute bookings too.

At the six Sands Resorts, the Vice President of Marketing Florence Collins-Brown said they have seen the same.

"Whether it's a storm or a pretty week they have learned they can monitor the weather, and there's some good last-minute deals out there," she said.

According to Collins-Brown most people with concerns about Irene rescheduled instead of canceling.

As for next weekend, she is not worried about AAA's national prediction; reservations are strong.

"Customers who were here earlier this summer decided they wanted to take that second trip back to the beach," she said.

At the Hampton Inn, they are pretty optimistic too. Gorman said the reservations already look promising.

"At this point right now we have more bookings than we did last year," he said.

The AAA report shows about 91 percent of people who are driving for Labor Day vacations will not let higher gas prices affect travel plans. So that could be another good sign for the Grand Strand.

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