MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - People in the Myrtle Beach-area tourism industry are saying it's out with the summer, and in with fall. The month of August kicks off the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce fall campaign, "60 More Days of Summer." While the Chamber works to expand airline travel for a larger autumn tourism reach, recovering from negative summer publicity is an ongoing struggle.
Brad Dean, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, (MBACC) president and CEO, said the "60 More Days of Summer" Campaign coincides with kids going back to school. It includes television and digital advertisements airing as far west as Illinois and throughout the northeast. However, Dean said the focus is not just attracting more people to the Myrtle Beach area, but flying the people to the area.
"Not only attract new flights and new airlines, but also expand the frequency of those flights that we already have. For us to grow our tourism destination, we need more flights in and more people flying into our airports. There's only so many people within a driving range. But, if we can add affordable air service, we're able to get people here from markets that wouldn't otherwise come," said Brad Dean.
Dean said Myrtle Beach International Airport currently serves 40 markets. The Chamber, MYR and Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday are working to expand to 60 or 70 markets within the next few years, he said.
Dean explained the fall campaign used to focus on southeastern states, but with increased airline and flight services, a much wider audience is reached. MYR has experienced three consecutive record years and Dean hopes to continue that this year, if the airport can reach it's 1,000,000th passenger. If airline services don't continue to expand, Dean said tourism won't progress.
Summer 2017 has been a memorable one for city officials and residents. With the Father's Day weekend shooting leaving seven people injured, and a string of crime following, Dean said the Chamber is working to answer community and visitor safety concerns. He said the Chamber gets inquiries of what's being done to keep and make the area safe. The Chamber recently created a new initiative through their Facebook page, "Keeping Myrtle Beach Safe" and a website, KeepingMyrtleBeachSafe.com. You can find posts about wanted suspects to safety tips and police appreciation events on both the Facebook and webpage.
"We've got several people that work on it...we're doing it through the Chamber. But, our intent is for this not to be a Chamber promotion, but rather a community tool to stay educated and informed about what our law enforcement is doing to make sure we remain a safe community - and also to provide relevant and timely information to visitors about what we're doing as well," Dean said.
The chamber-run Facebook page has just fewer than 500 followers, but Dean hopes for more to bring attention to police efforts and safety. The resident-run "Make Myrtle Beaches Free, Clean and Safe" has over 7,000 followers. The resident-run page was created last year. A statement on the page said it was created to bring "positive change for the region's betterment." Since the Father's Day weekend shooting, many residents have taken to the page to discuss their neighborhood safety concerns, beach concerns, opinions, city council decisions and future local political events like the upcoming Myrtle Beach elections.
Dean said safety is the number one goal for success, especially for a city who depends on a tourism-based economy. City officials are in the process of working with state lawmakers to hire more police officers. Dean said he wants people to realize extra police officers cannot be hired "overnight," but the city must work with state legislature to bring more law enforcement to the area. The Chamber has provided police officers in the city and Horry County area with free breakfasts throughout the summer as a gesture of appreciation, Dean said. He hopes to continue the new initiative.