. - MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's National Travel and Tourism week, and the success of the tourism industry is crucial for anyone who lives along the Grand Strand.
New research numbers from Coastal Carolina University and North Myrtle Beach show how much influence tourism has on the Grand Strand.
That influence is not just felt in Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, or North Myrtle Beach; all of the Grand Strand's coastal cities and towns benefit from tourism dollars have.
Those dollars equate to $7 billion a year, according to new research from CCU.
That number covers the total economic impact of visitor spending across Horry and Georgetown counties, meaning it accounts for what businesses in the tourism industry spend on the local economy.
Direct spending, which is money that comes directly from tourists' pockets, totaled $4.8 billion. CCU researchers said that's up 13 percent since 2011.
Across the Grand Strand, local governments are working to grow their reach, attract more tourists, add attractions and keep money coming in. Tourism brings more business, which means more jobs, and more people.
CCU officials said it's those tourism dollars that support some 83,000 jobs on the Grand Strand, accounting for more than half of all employment.
New research North Myrtle Beach independently sought supported CCU's findings.
"We are a growing destination," said George DuRant, vice president of tourism and development for the city of North Myrtle Beach. "It talked about being an emerging, fast, growing destination, not only in South Carolina, but in the southeast too."
North Myrtle Beach, for one, is learning new things about its tourist base.
"Data findings told us a lot of different things, (such as) that we have a more affluent tourist coming to the North Myrtle Beach area," DuRant said. "We have people that come back year after year. And our footprint is fairly set. We know where these tourists are coming from. We know where they're spending and the economic impact they have, not only in the city limits of North Myrtle Beach, but also the greater Horry County area."
If one were to ask local municipalities across the Grand Strand what is the one thing they want, they would all say to keep growing.
And they all hope to grow more during the spring and fall shoulder seasons.
"With new marketing dollars, we desperately need to bring people in in the spring," DuRant said. "(And) October is probably one of the prettiest months here at the beach. And we just have to fill up those unrented rooms and condominiums and homes during those times."