School makeup days for weather could mean slow start to summer tourism in Myrtle Beach area

dbryant@thesunnews.comFebruary 18, 2014 

STEVE JESSMORE — The Sun News Buy Photo

Grand Strand tourism leaders hope the winter weather doesn’t come back to haunt the beach come June.

Some students in the beach’s tourism feeder markets who have been kept out of class by the snow and ice might have to make up those days at the end of the school year, which could delay their vacations until later June or July. That could mean a slow start to summer for Myrtle Beach tourism.

But tourism promoters are trying to use the harsh winter to benefit the Grand Strand, boosting ads during the winter spells like the one last week, aiming to entice cabin-fevered folks to plan that beach getaway this spring or summer.

“We look at the bad weather as a marketing opportunity and utilize several marketing tactics, including weather-triggered ads in key markets of opportunity,” said Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. “When you’re in Ohio staring out your living room window at several feet of snow, ice and sludge, there’s no better message than a friendly invitation to visit the warmth and sunshine of the Myrtle Beach area.”

No one knows yet how it all will play out – how much of a boost the Grand Strand will get from the amped up advertising during the storm or how much of an affect the school make-up days will have on the early summer season.

Tourism promoters and lodging properties are watching to see if the schools forgive some of the days or tack them on to the end of the school year. Some properties say they’ve already gotten calls from early summer vacationers shifting their reservations to later.

“It may be a little too soon to tell how we’ll be affected by this weather,” said Vickie Carmody, spokeswoman for PirateLand Family Camping Resort, where advance summer reservations are up slightly from where they were at this time last year. “So far we’ve only had a couple calls to change dates because of makeup days and so far we have not had any cancellations.”

Any delay in the start of the season shouldn’t have a major impact on the summer overall, Dean said in an email. If reservations look soft as the summer season approaches, the chamber will react with a push to boost early summer traffic, he said.

“Northern communities are accustomed to handling the weather challenges and many build snow days into their calendars, but the school closures in other markets [Southern markets like North Carolina, Atlanta, mid-Atlantic markets like Maryland and Washington, D.C.] might delay the start of our summer somewhat,” Dean said. “We anticipate a trend of later school closings, which could soften June business, but won’t materially impact our overall summer volumes.”

Officials at the hotels that make up VacationMyrtleBeach said they are still optimistic about 2014, even if the school makeup days throw a kink in some vacationers’ plans.

“We are watching the effects of weather on our feeder markets to determine how school breaks are affected, as that could have some impact on a portion of our spring business, but aside from that we feel good about 2014 as a whole,” spokesman Matt Klugman said.

Some officials say the harsh winter weather could play in the Grand Strand’s favor, potentially boosting spring business with cabin-fevered folks ready for a warm beach getaway. Easter also falls later in the calendar this year, which tourism leaders say is another positive for the spring.

“Generally, during a really hard winter we find our guests are more motivated to get to the beach, so there may be a positive effect,” PirateLand’s Carmody said.

The chamber plans to spend six figures – an exact amount isn’t yet available – on marketing to entice folks cooped up on their couches because of the snow and ice to take a trip to the beach. TV ads are adjusted to take advantage of winter storms when folks are likely stuck at home, and social media efforts are ramped up, Dean said.

“While it’s still way too early to predict the summer trends, consumer confidence seems to have stabilized somewhat, gas prices are holding steady and after this terrible winter weather we anticipate a massive outbreak of cabin fever,” he said.

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

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