MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach officials are considering this past weekend as the kick-off to tourist season. Events on the weekend of March 3 to 5 contributed to a record start to begin a busy season in the Myrtle Beach area. Officials estimate it was one of the busiest weekends for that date ever.
A large contribution to more visitors was the new date for the Myrtle Beach Marathon and running events. In the past, it has been held in February. This year, the marathon and half marathon happened on March 4.
"Our goal is to get to 20 million annual visitors...and one of the ways we do that is to bring more people during the slower times. Which is not just good for those in the tourism business, but that helps to create more year around jobs and benefit our entire economy. When tourism grows, everybody wins," Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Brad Dean said.
The numbers of how much revenue the Myrtle Beach area earned from events that happened over the weekend, the women's ACC basketball tournament, the marathon and half marathon and FIRST Robotics competition, aren't in yet. But Dean said this was just the first weekend of a jam-packed March. He said it contributes to the push to bring more visitors here for more than a traditional beach getaway.
Dean said this year, events are spread throughout the month, and even throughout the Grand Strand, businesses are benefiting. The ACC tournament may have been in Conway, but many of the teams stayed in Myrtle Beach. The FIRST Robotics competition and numerous sporting competitions were happening at the beach, with many more to come this month. So you see the business was spread everywhere, and organizers were hoping that would give incentive to other large events to move to the beach.
With a usually slow winter season, Deans says the goal is to add and keep a variety of events from conventions and meetings to sporting competitions...and of course, get more NCAA tournaments to the beach.
Dean said the city plans to meet the goal of 20 million visitors in 2017. The way to do that is to market the Grand Strand as a year-round tourism destination. Dean said the chamber is working on that by creating special events, activities and promotions to give people a reason to come here throughout the year.
Although the NAACP boycott once pertained to South Carolina, now the Myrtle Beach area has cashed in on the North Carolina NCAA boycott. Dean said the boycott gave South Carolina a great opportunity to host tournaments that wanted to be moved, like the ACC women's basketball tournament.
"For many years with the NAACP boycott, we couldn't host many events. But now that that boycott has been lifted, we're working with our partners with both a state and local government, both with NAACP, to attract more NAACP events. and that's great...not only to host those student athletes, but also the many spectators that come. Not just in basketball, but hopefully other events...and Coastal Carolina is an important part of that effort," Dean said.