The fabulous fall weather has given Grand Strand tourism a nice shoulder season boost.
Strings of mild temperatures and sunny skies since the summer-ending Labor Day weekend have kept tourists coming to the Grand Strand, especially for weekend getaways, said Taylor Damonte of Coastal Carolina University’s Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism, which tracks the local lodging industry.
The fall lodging occupancy rates have been so good, they have “beat the forecast almost every weekend,” he said.
“We had basically no interruption to weekend travel patterns,” Damonte said of the transition from the busy summer season to fall. “We didn’t even have a tropical storm forecast to be nearby.”
From Sept. 8 through Oct. 19, about 55 percent of hotels, condo-hotels and campsites were occupied, up 4.8 occupancy points or 9.7 percent from the same period in 2012, according to the CCU center. Visitors also paid a bit more for their places to stay during that period, with average daily rates ticking up about 0.9 percent.
Revenue per available room, a key metric for lodging properties known as RevPAR, was up 9.7 percent during that six-week period from the same period a year ago, according to the center.
Vacation rental properties, where bookings have been off most of the year, didn’t fare as well. During the same six weeks, occupancy at vacation houses was about 56 percent, down 4.3 occupancy points or 7.2 percent compared to a year ago.
Weather plays a bigger role in travel to the Grand Strand during the spring and fall when folks are thinking more of spontaneous getaways than during the summer, when travelers plan their vacations in advance and go regardless, Damonte has said.
This fall, high temperatures averaged 82 degrees with an average low of 65 during September, and an average high of 74 and low of 56 during October, according to the National Weather Service. Rain stayed away for most of those two months, with a trace or slightly more on a handful of days in September and a few rainy days in October.
The fair-weather fall helped offset a cool, soggy spring that washed out an expected 1 percent uptick in lodging occupancy, replacing it with a 5 percent decline and casting doubts on what the crucial summer season would bring.
Summer got off to a slow start in June, but picked up in July and August.
“We had a great second half of summer and great fall so far,” Damonte said last week. “The weather was great.”
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