MYRTLE BEACH — Grand Strand tourism is poised to have a busy summer weekend in the wake of the area’s first brush with a tropical storm this year, which was just enough to be an annoyance for area businesses.
The rain and wind from Tropical Storm Andrea cleared out just in time Friday for vacationers to arrive for the weekend, with lodging occupancy expected to be near or above 85 percent; occupancy last weekend was 68 percent, according to Coastal Carolina University’s Center for Resort Tourism.
The sun was forecast to return Saturday and Sunday with highs in the mid-80s and a 30 percent chance of showers each day.
“We are hoping for big crowds [this weekend],” said Donnie Sipes with Family Kingdom Amusement Park in Myrtle Beach. “People are here, so we are hoping for good weather.”
The storm did cause a few visitors to cancel their reservations, while others left a day early on Thursday before the worst of the storm and some arrived a day late Friday afternoon after the storm had cleared out. But any vacant spots that opened up -- especially at properties that were booked this weekend before cancellations because of the storm -- were picked up by other last-minute travelers.
“After the cancellations, people started grabbing those back up,” said Barb Krumm of Ocean Lakes Family Campground, which had a few dozen cancellations because of the storm.
Workers at Fairfield Inn off U.S. 17 near Myrtle Beach Mall took lots of calls this week about the weather, but as of Friday morning, the 80-room hotel had only five available rooms Friday night and 10 for Saturday night. Guests this weekend include a large church group, a sports team and a wedding party, front desk worker Elizabeth Pitino said.
“We are doing pretty good,” she said.
The storm dropped between 3 and 4 inches, produced 40 mph wind gusts and stirred up the waves in the ocean late Thursday and Friday along the Grand Strand but caused very little damage. On Friday afternoon, rescuers were searching for a surfer who was last seen in the ocean near 42nd Avenue North in North Myrtle Beach.
All the news reports of the storm and its potential path probably did more harm than the storm itself, said John Daniels of the 600-room Breakers Resort in Myrtle Beach. The hotel expected to pick up some last-minute reservations for the few available rooms it had as of Friday morning and be full this weekend.
“We are mostly full right now,” he said Friday morning. “It was more media hype than people hype.”
Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at email@example.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.