Business owners see results of MBACC push for off-season tourism

Hotels seeing rise in off-season tourism this year

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce estimates 2015 would've been record-breaking for tourism numbers if the floods back in October hadn't stopped some of the momentum. Nonetheless, business owners said they've noticed an improvement for the entire year, including the shoulder seasons.

"We saw a 60 day season that expanded to almost a 100 day season and now we're seeing gradually it's continuing to increase," said Buz Plyler, owner of the Gay Dolphin.

Years ago, the Gay Dolphin was one of the only stores open in the downtown area for the entire year, not just during the summer.

"My father thought the only way that the off-season business is going to grow is if you stayed open," said Buz Plyler, owner of The Gay Dolphin.

Now other businesses on Ocean Boulevard are also open and Plyler said he's seeing more foot traffic from new customers.

Plyler does his own survey of sorts among his customers to see if people have been to the area before.

"In the past years, almost 95% or more of the people would say they have been," he said. "This is where they vacation every year."

Now, he estimates 25% of his customers are new to Myrtle Beach.

"We're now servicing markets like Wisconsin, Denver, Colorado, Washington state, St. Louis," he said. "Places we never got people from before."

Plyler said that's due to increased advertising to potential tourists.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce boosted television and digital advertising, which President/CEO Brad Dean said reached more than 40 markets for the campaign this fall, also known as "60 More Days of Summer."

"September and October are two of the best months of the year," said Billy McGonigal, owner of Best Western Ocean Sands and a member of the MBACC board of directors. "Attractive rates and yet we have the beach and the weather is conducive. The ocean is still warm and beautiful."

The October flooding did discourage tourists from visiting during the fall shoulder season.

"The year before we had 17 million visitors. I think we would've eclipsed those numbers," McGonigal said. "I believe that we would've had one our best years ever visitor-wise."

Right now, MBACC is using the holidays to drive people to Myrtle Beach for holiday theater shows and shopping. The chamber has also run holiday promotions recently in nearby states offering free trips.

The chamber has worked with airlines recently to get more flights before and after the summer and the organization is also encouraging groups to visit for conventions, meetings, bus tours and sporting events during the shoulder seasons.

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