MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Wednesday is the final day of the 50th annual South Carolina Governor's Conference on Tourism and Travel. It goes without saying, tourism is a cash cow for the Grand Strand. Industry leaders from across the state are meeting in Myrtle Beach to brainstorm how to keep that momentum going.
The overwhelming consensus from this year's conference is that marketing tactics do need a spruce up. The three-day gathering at the Embassy Suites has been a time to analyze how cities fared last year, and what leaders need to do to grow and improve for next year.
"Tourism has dramatically changed over the years," says Duane Parrish, the director for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, & Tourism. "How people travel, how people communicate, their means and methods of travel have changed. So we have to constantly update ourselves each year to stay on top of the game."
The Palmetto state made record tourism growth the past two years, but tourism has dramatically changed over the past 50 years. So industry leaders have to constantly update their marketing methods. Discussion in some of the presentations and break-out sessions focused on continuing the momentum by hitting unique experiences in a new way.
The Grand Strand will continue massive campaigns to attract tourists for the "obvious" reasons: the beach and golf. But in the Grand Strand's efforts to attract more millennials, leaders are also hoping to put more attention on local towns, local restaurants, and unique experiences. That's something leaders say millennials are looking for in a vacation getaway. Speakers encouraged local leaders that selling the benefits and value of the area instead of novelties and clichés will help provoke long-term strategies for tourism.
And one way experts recommend local businesses do that is by using social media. Parrish says the way millennials communicate through social media has changed how people travel and think. It's also changing how cities across South Carolina try to market a location as a tourist destination.
Social media specialists from BFG gave a presentation about how area business owners can best utilize Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to their advantage. For example, Facebook is now more often used as a research tool. So as people are researching Myrtle Beach as a possible destination, make it easy for them! To reach millennials, a business needs to create a page, keep it updated, and engage with people already talking about your product, service, or attraction.
"Myrtle Beach has a lot of great things to offer. What I would call 'natural heritage' things to do. I think people are looking for more things that are authentic, and a cultural heritage standpoint. Food is a big deal. Foodies now! Food is a big reason people travel and pick destinations," says Parrish.
A unique experience is truly a requirement for young travelers, they don't want the "same old same old." Parrish says they want an adventure they can blog, post and tweet about later.
Parrish says, as an example, Conway fits perfectly into the Parks & Rec Department's marketing program of what they call "Undiscovered South Carolina". Downtown Conway is quaint and unique with local shops and restaurants. And Conway is also looking to boost the area as an outdoor adventure destination with hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, and more. It's versatility like that leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs are encouraged focus on in the coming year.