MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Wintertime often means a lull for tourism here on the Grand Strand, but it's not the slow season for everyone and some say it's picking up.
Paul Edwards, the General Manager of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center says right now is actually it's busiest time of the year. With shows and tournaments, this facility is packed through the winter months, which is a big boost of revenue for business owners who struggle through the cold months. "When we get into the first quarter of 2015, a lot of people think, "Well, that is the slow season for Myrtle Beach, but the convention center is actually our busiest quarter of the year."
Every show, tournament, or event means more rooms are booked, more mouths are fed and more people are entertained at local businesses. The number of events hosted each year doesn't change drastically, but events are added when there is space. The size of the shows are changing.
Edwards says when the recession hit, many of the events had to scale down because fewer vendors and attendees could afford to participate in things like expos and shows, now, that's all turning around. "What we see happening is the groups that have been with us for several years are going back to the numbers, the numbers of vendors, the number of attendees that we saw in the very strong years," according to Edwards. "So the economy is picking up and we get the benefit of that," he added.
The convention center estimates in the month of December, there were 50,000 visitors through its doors for events, half of those were people visiting from outside the Myrtle Beach area.
During the shoulder season, local businesses struggle to get customers through the door.
Chances are you know a business owner who can attest to how every tournament, show and event can help make or break a successful year. A big show or tournament at the convention center brings in thousands and thousands of people. "Sleeping in rooms, dining in restaurants, shopping in facilities all over Myrtle Beach," Edwards says.
This time of year, many tournaments are one sport in particular. "This is the time of the year for the basketball," according to Edwards. Two tournaments just wrapped up and the clock starts on another big one tomorrow. "Beach ball classic," Edwards confirms. "That's 16 teams from across the US. High school boys teams, some of the top teams in the nation," he added.
Soon you'll see a lot more teams in uniform, flocking to the Grand Strand to compete a slam dunk for local businesses.
"And the indication for that, is what's going up behind us with the Myrtle Beach sports facility," Edwards references. That'll open in early March, and there are some events that will be in both facilities, the convention center and the sports facility. Sports tourism is a big thing and the city is investing in it.";
The city invests in sports tourism because the sports complex out back hasn't even opened yet and it's already booked solid through August.
The Convention Center is working with the complex to be able to host even larger events by combining both spaces.