Myrtle Beach tourism promoters to tout value in ads

dbryant@thesunnews.comOctober 30, 2012 

Grand Strand tourism promoters plan to continue pitching Myrtle Beach’s affordability to potential visitors through increased digital efforts next year, officials told business representatives Tuesday.

More travelers are using their cell phones and tablets to plan their getaways, and 30 percent of traffic on visitor website www.visitmyrtlebeach.com comes from mobile devices, said Scott Schult, executive vice president of marketing for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber, the area’s main tourism promoter and operator of www.visitmyrtlebeach.com, continues to tweak efforts aiming to make it easier to plan a Myrtle Beach vacation using the latest gadgets, including quick video clips, he said.

The number of unique visits to the website is up about 19 percent over 2011, and its Facebook page has about 623,000 followers, Schult said. The chamber spent about $26 million in public funds -- including revenues from a 1-cent sales tax in Myrtle Beach and state accommodations taxes -- on marketing this year and expects to have a bit more than that to spend in 2013, chamber officials said.

“Mobile is where it’s all going,” Schult said of travel planning today. “That’s a game changer for us. The way people are planning and booking travel is consistently changing. Technology is making that happen. We have to alter and evolve in the way we communicate.”

Doing more to market digitally was one of the focuses Tuesday at the chamber’s fall marketing update at the Crown Reef Resort in Myrtle Beach, where about 100 attendees also heard how marketing group Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday and the Myrtle Beach International Airport are promoting the area through social media and other efforts.

The group also got tips on how businesses can boost their digital presence from Shaun Aukland of Google’s travel division.

“It’s up-to-date, it’s current, it’s what’s going on,” Allyn Morton, general manager of Water’s Edge Resort in Garden City Beach, said of the digital strategy.

Regardless of how travelers are getting their information about potential destinations, they are still looking for deals as nearly half of consumers continue to watch their spending because of the down economy, officials said. During the summer, vacationers aiming to save a few dollars stayed fewer nights, ate out less and cut back on the number of attractions they visited while here.

“It’s still going to be value and affordability,” Schult said. “People are still concerned about their pocketbooks.”

For some travelers, a golf getaway is the first discretionary expense cut from tight budgets, said Bill Golden, president of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday. The marketing group plans to use new research to tailor messages to golfers next year, he said. The number of golf rounds increased about 2 percent this year, but that’s not as significant growth as officials want to see, Golden said, adding that visits to the website also were up, in part because of Facebook referrals.

“That golf trip is further on down the line and the first to go,” he said.

Though most of the chamber’s promotions will focus on getting vacationers -- especially first-time visitors -- to the beach during the summer, it also plans to boost spring and fall promotions and target more niche groups, including boaters and those who love to fish, wedding parties and honeymooners, girlfriends looking for a getaway and individual travelers, Schult said.

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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