MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Thousands will travel this holiday weekend... and according to Triple A, low gas prices
could allow more people to get away for the weekend. WMBF News wanted to look at the numbers to see if gas prices really have an impact on the number of tourists that visit the Grand Strand.
Using the data for Coastal Carolina University Economic Tourism study on lodging occupancy rates, we also collected data AAA on the South Carolina gas price averages on Labor Day from 2011 to 2014.
According to the data provided, 80.8% was the occupancy rate for hotels and lodging in the area, the average price for gas the was $3.43 back then. In 2012, the occupancy rate was 79.7%, down just a bit just as the average state price for gas went up a little to $3.60. Labor Day 2013, the occupancy rate was at 84.0%, a significant jump, then gas prices on average were $3.28, down 32 cents from the year before. Lastly, last year, 88.7% was the occupancy rate for the Grand Strand, and gas price average for South Carolina was $3.17.
For 2015, gas prices for Labor Day are the lowest they have been in a decade for South Carolina at $2.01 per gallon. Motorist were paying $1.15 more per gallon statewide a year ago on Labor Day, according to AAA
There is some correlation between the number of travelers we see during the holiday but we can not say its solely due to gas prices. According to CCU Professor Taylor Damonte, with the Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism, says there are other factors that could be related to numbers, for instance, weather forecasts, scheduled events, and sometimes what weekend a holiday falls on the calendar can be a factor.
AAA officials say low gas prices at the pump definitely help fuel holiday travel. Tracie Lawrence, AAA Branch Manager in Myrtle Beach said, "If they are spending less to fill up their tanks they might spend a little bit more on hotels or activities."
According to AAA, more than 455,500 Palmetto state residents will hit the road Labor Day weekend.
Lawrence says the most expensive gas in the state is in Charleston, with an average of $2.01 and the least expensive is in Myrtle Beach at $1.94.
"Normally there is an increase every time there is a holiday because the general thought is that people are going to be on the roads, but
this year it is a little bit different because the price of crude oil is historically low, it's the lowest its been in almost 10 years," explained Lawrence.
Recent reports from several travel websites, like TripAdvisor and AAA vacations, Myrtle Beach is one of the top destinations for the holiday weekend.
Early predictions for the 2015 Labor Day weekend from the CCU's Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism show an 85% occupancy rate for the Grand Strand.
"I think that when all of sudden you can fill up your car in some cases definitely less than $30 people think, 'yes we can do that drive it's less than a tank of gas we're going to come,' I think it is a big consideration of what could bring more people here this weekend," added Lawrence.
And for those travelers looking to the next major holiday, Thanksgiving, there may be some good news.
Lawrence said, "A lot of folks travel for Thanksgiving and traditionally it is by car, so we normally will see an increase but right now we are forecasting
that fuel prices will continue to drop."