MYRTLE BEACH — Myrtle Beach has seen a 6 percent increase in admissions taxes since last year and lodging revenues are up between 4 and 5 percent from a year ago, according to officials with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber President and CEO Brad Dean told on Tuesday the Myrtle Beach City Council members that marketing, partially paid for by a local option 1 percent sales tax, has helped increase the number of visitors that come to Myrtle Beach.
Dean said the chambers main goal is bring first-time visitors to the Myrtle Beach area. In a presentation, chamber representatives told City Council that 38 percent of visits to the area in 2012 were first time visitors, up from 34 percent in 2011.
The chamber also is, and will continue to, focus on marketing online, with Executive Vice President Marketing Scott Schult pointing to research that found that 80 percent of vacationers plan their trips online.
“The Internet has and continues to be the top resource,” Schult said.
He said mobile traffic to the chamber’s website, VisitMyrtleBeach.com, has more than doubled and tablet traffic has increased by 20 percent.
“Referrals to [the chamber’s] lodging partners has grown almost five-fold,” he said.
Dean said the chamber’s marketing budget for 2014 is almost $30 million. Nearly 75 percent of that money will be spent on advertising to those coming to Myrtle Beach for leisure. Marketing for those coming to Myrtle Beach for golf and group events, such as sporting events and conventions, make up nearly 25 percent of the budget, combined.
Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, said sports tourism needs focused marketing separate from other group events, citing an indoor sports complex scheduled to open in spring 2015. Rhodes also is executive director of the annual Beach Ball Classic, which brings 16 high school basketball teams to Myrtle Beach to compete in a tournament each December.
“I’m excited that sports tourism isn’t just bringing more people here, but it’s bringing more people here during the spring and the fall,” Dean said. “As you continue to add infrastructure funds, we will continue to invest in promoting sports tourism.”
Schult said the chamber also is looking to increase international markets, advertising in Canada and the United Kingdom.
“Most people don’t see what we do because it’s done outside the state,” he said.
The chamber will work to bring 1.5 million first-time visits to Myrtle Beach, more than 10 million unique visitors to the chamber’s website and increase industry referrals by 10 percent, Schult said.
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.