Big name, big tower hotels could cast shadow over smaller businesses

Big name, big tower hotels could cast shadow over smaller businesses

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – As the city skyline begins to change, smaller hotel managers worry about being stuck in the shadows of the proposed high-rise towers being built on the boulevard.

“If you're going to do anything hotel-wise, tear down some older ones and build new ones in their place, but at the same time I think you should bring an attraction to bring people here,” expressed Candice Fairley at the front desk of Summer Wind Inn and Suites.

With more than a decade of experience in the hospitality industry, Fairley considers herself a future entrepreneur, with dreams to bring a Bed and Breakfast to the beach.

“Some people want to get away but still feel at home,” said Fairley. “Sometimes couples want to get away but don't want to be in a hotel filled with kids. [A B&B] would bring something different to the beach,” she added.

Building something different, she believes, is the key to revitalizing the south end.

“Attractions like an amusement park or something families can enjoy together instead of just another hotel.”

However, another hotel is being built just steps from her office.

The Homewood Suites Oceanfront Resort and Conference Center will be built by 18th Avenue South and will bring 100 new suites, a restaurant and a 300-seat conference center.

“It brings more job opportunities, yes it does. But what happens in September or October when people aren't coming here,” worried Fairley. She pointed out a more permanent attraction to bring tourists here during the off-season would also provide yearlong jobs for locals.

Mark Kruea, Spokesperson for the City of Myrtle Beach, pointed out most of the big, new hotels are locally owned and there are not very many chain or corporate-owned hotels.

“We've certainly seen record growth in visitor-ship during the last few years, since the TDF was implemented, but it follows the Great Recession, which followed the last big building boom, so we had (and may still have) some capacity in the existing room/night inventory,” wrote Kruea in an email to WMBF News.

In his email, Kruea also point out that it is hard to argue with the growth the Grand Strand has seen in tourism this year.

“When the cautious business community is ready to spend $25 million to $50 million on a new hotel, I'd take that as a sign that at least some properties think they can bank on the rising demand,” explained Kruea.

He believes mom-and-pop motels still have a place “those older, smaller properties need to be well-maintained, neat and clean. Eliminating the rundown, dilapidated properties in favor of bigger, newer properties is a winner every time.”

Taylor Damonte, with CCU, studies the lodging market in the area and compiles data to track trends with occupancy and rates. He pointed out that from Little River down to Georgetown there are around 100,000 bedroom units.

At this time, Damonte believes that area is seeing a demand in occupancy increasing between 1.5-2 percent. At the same time, it appears inventory, or lodging bedroom units, is increasing less than .5 percent per year.

Based on the new properties in the planning stages at this time, Damonte explained if you take the occupancy increase and the inventory increase into account, he suspects the industry will be able to absorb the increase.

This means with the current plans to build the hotels, there shouldn't be a huge impact on rates across the board. The business community is being cautious in how many hotels are built to make sure there is actually a demand.

However, it will impact smaller hotels that are not affiliated with a brand. Damonte explained the biggest factors to get people through hotel doors is brand affiliation, convention space, and location.

Guests gravitate to brand-name hotels, especially businessmen and women who travel on a points program. They are more likely, Damonte pointed out, to pick a hotel affiliated with that brand in order to cash in their points during vacation.

Being near the ocean can, in essence, be considered a brand within itself. More independently owned hotels are on the beach, said Damonte, and should be fine with this new competition.

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