Cold and rain to blame for slow hotel growth in 2013

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The clock is ticking closer the unofficial start to the summer tourism season. But, even during the cooler months, some travelers chose Myrtle Beach to spend their late winter and early spring vacations.

A brand new study shows occupancy in Myrtle Beach hotels is up, but not by much. The good news: vacationers still came to the Grand Strand, despite the colder and wetter weather in the Grand Strand so far in 2013. The bad news: experts didn't see the growth they expected.

Coastal Carolina University's new lodging update compares the first 15 weeks of 2013 to the same period in 2012. This is considered the off-season in the Grand Strand, but it has its peaks, like the Easter Holiday weekend, and Canadian-American Festival days. CCU researcher Dr. Taylor Damonte says important  indicators like more advertising efforts and new attractions in the area pointed to a stronger start to the year. According to his team's latest study, it may have not been enough to fill up hotel rooms.

The report shows hotel occupancy grew less than 1 percent during the same 15-week period in 2012. Damonte says the chilly and damp weather could be to blame for the lag in growth. The study goes on to show the Grand Strand's forecast on average was 11 degrees colder with a 4 percent higher chance of rain compared to the same period in 2012.

Damonte says his research team has found a strong connection between gloomy forecasts and lower hotel bookings, especially in the early spring.

"It did hold growth to a bare minimum and perhaps did have an impact on price," says Dr. Damonte.

Damonte says weather forecasts in the summer have less impacts on hotel stays in the Grand Strand. He says this is probably because summer vacations are booked further in advance, compared to spring-time getaways. Damonte cautions there is one exception. Named storms during hurricane season threatening the Myrtle Beach coast could have a negative impact on hotel demand.

"We hope we have a good summer. We hope we don't have any named storms," added Damonte.

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