Myrtle Beach is still expecting a busy winter weekend with the marathon and Presidents Day holiday Monday, but it likely will not to be as busy as once predicted because the winter storm will keep some runners from getting here.
Still hazardous travel conditions in parts of the country may keep some registered runners for the Myrtle Beach Marathon from making the trip, while others might arrive a day later than usual. Many runners try to arrive Thursday so they can get acclimated before Saturday’s race.
“We do get quite a few that normally come in Thursday evening,” Taylor Damonte of Coastal Carolina University’s Center for Resort Tourism said Thursday morning. “And of course today is not a good day to be traveling from the Northeast.”
Race organizers, after hearing from a number of concerned runners who are expecting to get here later than planned, extended the time runners could pick up bibs and packets into Saturday morning before the race; runners usually have to pick them up by the close of the Runners Expo Friday night.
Several hotel managers said Thursday morning that they had received a few cancellations, but already had filled or were expected to fill those rooms quickly.
“This is a little bit different situation than we have had before,” Damonte said. “We don’t really know how this is going to play out.”
Even with the flurry of cancellations and delays, Damonte predicts lodging occupancy to be about 60 percent Friday and Saturday nights, a bit lower than during the marathon weekend last year but much busier than the last few winter weekends at the beach.
The center adjusted the prediction downward because of the expected weather travel issues, though it’s still within about 10 percent of the initial forecast, Damonte said.
“We will see some spillover [from the weather],” he said. “I’m not forecasting a wash out by any means. I’m forecasting a relatively minor impact.”
But Damonte admits it’s difficult to know. The weather here is expected to clear out Thursday with sun and highs in the 50s forecast for Friday and Saturday. But where the runners are coming from might still be digging out of the winter storm that slammed the east coast this week.
The Fairfield Inn near Broadway at the Beach had received about 10 cancellations each for Friday and Saturday nights from marathon runners who were stuck in the storm, but those were filled by locals and others for Valentine’s Day, general manager Karen Williams said.
“I hate to see people cancel,” she said, “but if they can't get here, they can't get here.”
At the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel, only 30 of the hotel’s 400 rooms were still available as of Thursday morning, general manager Suzanne Hinde said. But she said that the weather is supposed to be good this weekend and that some last-minute guests would be normal this time of year.
“I still think we'll be full Friday and Saturday night,” she said.
The marathon-Presidents Day weekend typically helps wake up Grand Strand tourism from its winter hibernation, with many businesses banking on the boost. Occupancy is still expected to hit about 60 percent this weekend; it was at 34 percent last weekend, according to CCU.
“This is a great weekend with Valentine’s Day, Presidents weekend and the marathon converging all on the same weekend,” said Matt Klugman, spokesman for hotels that make up VacationMyrtleBeach.com. “Fortunately we’re getting through the rough weather during the week so that by the weekend things will clear up for what looks to be a strong weekend for the beach.”
Broadway at the Beach, which hosts some marathon activities as well as its KidzTime Festival on Saturday, extends its hours this weekend aiming to get the most with all the runners and other visitors in town, said Melissa Armstrong, Broadway’s marketing manager.
“Last year we had nice crowds and we anticipate the same this year,” she said. “The festivities surrounding the marathon, coupled with the KidzTime Festival provide a great transition between the winter season and the highly anticipated spring season just around the corner, making this particular weekend one of the busiest of the winter season.”
Staff writer Steve Jones contributed to this report.
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