End of year tourism study released

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - In time for the end of 2011, Coastal Carolina economists released details about how some of the year's tourism numbers stacked up to the previous three years.

The details came in a study from the Clay Brittain Center for Resort Tourism and the BB&T Center for Economic and Community Development in the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration.

In general, the numbers show some optimistic signs for tourism and the overall economy in the Grand Strand.

Economists Dr. Taylor Damonte and Gary Loftus looked at occupancy levels and the average rate for reservations at hotels, resorts and campgrounds. Each annual tourism year began the weekend after Thanksgiving and continued through Thanksgiving weekend of the following calendar year. (e.g. the 2008 season began after Thanksgiving of 2007 and continued through Thanksgiving weekend of 2008)

The occupancy levels dipped from 2008 to 2009, went back up a bit in 2010, and then slipped back down just a little in 2011. Looking at the year as a whole occupancy was back to 2008 levels in 2011, and summer months were higher than three years ago.

As for room rates, the peak was in 2008. For the whole year, rates dropped in 2009, rose slightly in 2010, and went up some more in 2011. Rates for the overall year are still not back to 2008 levels. However, summer rates for 2011 were back to 2008 levels.

Harold Barrett who manages resorts for Brittain Resorts said he has noticed the upward trend in price.

"We're seeing about a percent and a half to two percent increase in ADR, average daily rate," Barrett said. "It's encouraging that we're able to get the rate back up a little bit now, and the numbers aren't, as far as occupied rooms, aren't way off."

Nonetheless, he has also noticed a basically flat occupancy level.

"This year is about flat," Barrett said. "The area suffered in September with the storm fear, not only that week but the week after."

Barrett said at the Dunes Village occupancy and rates were helped some this year by the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. He said some of the new attractions also helped.

"The SkyWheel and all those new attractions help," Barrett said. "The boardwalk certainly does. We have some resorts down that way, and it's had a positive effect on the occupancy. We just need to keep things coming."

Damonte said the area around the boardwalk is ripe for revitalization and even more new attractions that could continue to help Myrtle Beach pull out of a gloomy economy. He said as word of mouth and advertising spreads information about the new attractions more people could come to visit in 2012, pushing occupancy and rates higher.

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