Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce spends millions on ads despite being COVID-19 hotspot

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 8:25 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Horry County continues to be a hotspot for COVID-19, but that isn’t stopping advertising to bring more people to the Grand Strand this summer.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce has had a three-phase approach to advertisements during the pandemic. The chamber’s first phase, which began in March, was to focus on keeping Myrtle Beach on the minds of possible tourists through social media.

In May, the chamber slowly moved into ads focused on states within a driving distance as people were starting to plan trips again.

Recently, advertisements have been sent to a much larger audience. From the East Coast to the Midwest, more than 60 cities have received a clear message; the beaches are open, and to visit Myrtle Beach responsibly.

Chamber officials said they temporarily paused television ads in some markets receiving feedback, but those all promotions began running again July 13.

The chamber said from March 1 to July 17, they’ve spent a little under $6.8 million on advertisements, which is 37% less than the same time period in 2019.

“Places do not spread viruses, people do, but if we all do our part to stop the spread of the virus by following recommended guidelines, we can safely enjoy all the Grand Strand has to offer,” said chamber president and CEO Karen Riordan in a statement.

A restaurant owner said for him, the first priority is safety.

“Obviously the increase in COVID is impacting all of the businesses and you know if I was to give a message out to anybody outside of Myrtle Beach coming to us, there are protocols being done to ensure the safety of everybody,” said Dan Ripa, co-owner of Cafe Gelato.

Each month, the Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism at Coastal Carolina University breaks down the average percent of occupancy for hotels, condo-hotels and campsites in the Grand Strand. Their data shows the number of people coming to spend the night is significantly lower from March to June of this year.

In April, occupancy rates were barely over 3% compared to over 66% last year.

Even then, businesses in the area said they’re happy with the extra marketing push.

“I feel that maybe they should have done that maybe a little bit earlier than they did but I’m 100 percent glad that they’re putting those ads our there and that they’re asking people to abide by everything we’re asking you to do. I love the fact that they’re putting the ads out,” said Wendy Sissell, operations manager at Craft Taco.

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