MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – As we inch closer to summer with the city's goal of 20 million visitors in the area by 2020, Myrtle Beach is well on its way and is expecting high numbers this upcoming busy tourist season. Now that we are in the middle of shoulder season, businesses in the area said this season has been a lot better than last year and continues to improve.
Horry County Airports Director Scott Van Moppes said the month of February this year had the highest recorded passenger counts ever for the Myrtle Beach International Airport, with a total of 97,511 passengers making their way through the airport. Airport officials said despite winter storm cancellations, airline partners reported an increase of 9.3 percent compared to the 89,180 passengers in February of last year. They expect those numbers to remain strong as we head into the busy season.
The manager at Peaches Corner on 9th Avenue North, Robert Alston, said lately due to the cold weather, the last couple of days have been slow. With the temperatures dropping even lower at night, they haven't been doing great. However, Alston said business on the weekends has been better than last year.
"As long as the weather is good, we have good turnouts. Some people are coming from the north here because they got bad weather and we have good weather - we hope that - everyone will be coming to Myrtle Beach instead of going to Florida, Charleston - that we will get more exposure than these other places," said Altson.
Some owners in the area said they will rely on the upcoming season. One business looking forward to the summer is The Bowery. It's one of the oldest bars in the area, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
Owner of The Bowery, Victor Shamah, has been on 9th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard since the early days. He has watched this place grow, and said business has really been thriving lately.
Shamah also said the other part of his business, The Duffy, has been open all year-round for the past four to five years and every year, business has improved from the previous year. He said ever since the Boardwalk was built in 2010, people from all ages are visiting.
He said so far this year, despite the cold weather, their marketing and sales have been up since last year, and have had incredible business for this time of year. Previously, Shamah closed on Labor Day and did not re-open until March. Now, he said The Bowery stays open from March until the end of November full-time. Some business owners in the area said they hope to brand the area from 1st to 16th Avenues North as "Oceanwalk."
"Well the crowds have been coming. The areas being more developed it's becoming more of a destination point to come to the boardwalk area to see what we got. Of course, we got the ocean which you can't replace, Market Commons and you can't replace at Broadway at the Beach or Barefoot Landing. So, we have what the people want - they want to stroll on the Boardwalk, they want to have a good time, they want to shop, they want to be entertained and that's what keeps us going - thank God," said Shamah.