NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As the city prepares for tourism season and its growing numbers, North Myrtle Beach voters have the option to voice their opinions on a new 1 percent tourism development fee that would bring in nearly $8.5 million.
The polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. If the tax is approved, it would apply to everything purchased within city limits. The only exception is unprepared food purchases.
North Myrtle Beach spokesperson, Pat Dowling, said the first year, all the money would go to a designated non-profit marketing organization, such as a chamber of commerce to bring more tourists to the area. In the second year, he said 20 percent of that fee would be used by the city for a variety of things like public parking and property tax relief.
Senior Vice President of Tourism Development, George DuRant, said under the guidelines, this tax can generate about $8.5 million and last about a decade. He also said it would benefit everyone in general.
"Well the future in everything is that we can continue to progress our city. It's a wonderful quality of life here… and our brand certainly has resonated with everyone who loves to visit this area. We just want to continue to manage our brand or somebody else will manage it for us. You know we are in the situation where a hurricane or a natural disaster or something unfortunate happens could really kill our economy here…and this is really an insurance policy for the future," said DuRant.
Owner of Direct Vacation Rentals, Bob Connolly, says his business has been around for ten years and he's in favor of change.
"Tourism is our business and it is the backbone of the industry down here on the Grand Strand and especially here in North Myrtle Beach. I'm very much in favor. I've seen what the good has done of the 1 percent in Myrtle Beach. However, I do feel more money should be put toward infrastructure to help handle the increased tourism. But, it is very important to push tourism for North Myrtle Beach," said Connolly.
The votes will be tallied when the referendum ends at 7pm. On Thursday morning at 10 am, City Hall will certify the vote.