Busiest traveling weekend, slowest tourism weekend

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) -Despite all the traveling going on this weekend, it will be one of the slowest tourism weekends for the Grand Strand. But that doesn't mean tourism has been slow in 2012.

The Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism tracks our visitors and the trends we see here along the Grand Strand. They have found a 45 percent increase in the area for hotel occupancy and revenue.

"Everything here is trending up, we're above the national average," agrees Chris Walker, the President of the Oceanfront Merchant's Association.

CCU's Brittain Center for Resort Tourism says our spring was strong with better numbers than last year. However, they say our winter is very slow this year.

"We need to survive during the winter time, we're struggling," says Fabiola Gonzalez Lopez, the owner of Fabiola Hair Salon.

Local businesses rely on those numbers to survive.

"We probably get hit here more by the seasons than anywhere else in town," agrees Mr. Walker.

Some owners want the city to help them through the off-season.

"They should do a little bit more during the winter, for the locals. This is a really cool area, with a lot going on," suggests Ms. Lopez.

The Oceanfront Merchant's Association is putting on events to celebrate the holidays and to encourage business. They want to turn Ocean Boulevard from a seasonal destination for tourists to a year-round location for locals.

"The wheel, the boardwalk, the new developments. We just have a lot going on here," says Mr. Walker.

They believe the construction projects on Ocean Boulevard are signs of growth in the area.

"We're above the national trend. We're building restaurants. Just across the street they're building a 5,000 square foot retail area," Walker says.

While this is the slowest weekend of the year, the Center for Resort Tourism predicts New Years Eve on the Grand Strand will be twice as busy as last year.

"What we're doing through New Years Eve is an example of how we're trying to turn this around to a…less season area to a year-round location," says Mr. Walker.

It is still too early to predict how the tourism industry will perform in the Grand Strand next year. The Center for Resort Tourism explains there are just too many undecided factors right now. For example, the fiscal cliff and decisions on federal policies that will affect the economy and a consumer's ability to spend on travel.

The Center for Resort Tourism says as a destination, the Grand Strand is doing everything it can to keep drawing in visitors.

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