MB preps for presidential debate business boom

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As Republican presidential hopefuls continue to heat up the campaign trail, Myrtle Beach is hoping for a big business boom ahead of January's presidential primary debates.

Previous Republican and Democratic debates held in Myrtle Beach prior to the 2008 election helped bring millions in direct spending to the area, in an otherwise calm month for the resort town.

On the heels of the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary Debate heading back to Myrtle Beach, several local businesses are planning to roll out the red carpet to help drive cash into their registers.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce says businesses can apply to have their exclusive debate weekend deals advertised on their website. All businesses, members and non-members are welcomed.

"It's a great opportunity for any area business to advertise for free to Grand Strand visitors this January," Nora Hembree, spokeswoman for the MBACC, said.

Both member and non-member businesses have the opportunity to submit their deals to the Chamber up until January 9.

While local businesses are hoping the debates will be a major winter cash cow, hotels are hoping the debates put more heads in their beds.

"We're noticing occupancy is rising," Nancy Lee, of Hampton Inn and Suites, said when asked about bookings for debate weekend. "Right now we're at about 60 percent, but we expect to see that go higher."

Taylor Damonte, of Coastal Carolina University, says it's a possibility too. He points out the scheduling of the debate falls on the same weekend as the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday - a weekend that traditionally sees a 3-day spike in tourism.

Damonte says early predictions reveal hotel occupancy along the Grand Strand could sit at anywhere between 37 and 45 percent - and that's only counting holiday travelers. He says while no concrete predictions have been released, it's likely visitors in town for the debate will make that number go up.

And the benefits of luring a nationally televised presidential primary debate back to Myrtle Beach don't stop when the candidates leave town.

"With this, we see some of the largest benefits with the national media outlets in town," Hembree said. "The ability to spread the Myrtle Beach message, our name and personality to all of those outlets across the country. With the last go-around, we had and saw a significant impact. With increased advertising, the Myrtle Beach name is really spreading across the country."

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