The impending arrival of Hurricane Matthew is predicted to shift hotel occupancy from the coast to inland properties, and it’s prompting the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to predict the storm will have a substantial impact on the local economy.
“The Grand Strand economy was moving at high speed until Matthew slammed the brakes,” said Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach chamber. “Our tourism industry was on track to have its best fall season ever, with hotel occupancy rates and airport traffic well above last year. This coming holiday weekend would have been very busy had the weather cooperated. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and for the second year in a row, our fall tourism season is disrupted by weather events and many real estate closings are delayed.
“Due to the midweek evacuation and timing of this storm, the Grand Strand losses will be substantial, but thankfully we are not dealing with the scope of losses experienced in other areas.”
Hurricane Matthew has wreaked havoc on Haiti, the Bahamas and much of Florida.
Dean was referring to last year’s fall season being interrupted by flooding from Tropical Storm Joaquin.
The Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism at Coastal Carolina University studies occupancy rates along the Grand Strand. This week’s look showed that the average occupancy for rooms and weekly rentals located east of U.S. 17 Business is expected to be nil, but they expect average occupancy for lodging properties in areas of Horry and Georgetown Countieswest of the evacuated areas may be near 90 percent during the period of the evacuation.
Their research shows the midweek occupancy rate for properties along the Grand Strand during the week of Sept. 25-Oct. 1 averaged 44.2 percent, which is up 8.4 percent compared to the same week last year.
During the Friday-Saturday night period, according to the research, the occupancy rate averaged 81.2 percent, up 78.3 percent compared to the equivalent weekend last year, during which the area was impacted by Tropical Storm Joaquin.
Occupancy for the week overall was up nearly 30 percent, and revenue per available room was up 37.2 percent compared with the equivalent week of 2015.
Dean said the chamber temporarily halted its fall advertising campaign due to the evacuation.
“We are prepared to immediately shift gears into our post-event promotional campaign, themed ‘The coast is clear, we are open for business,’” Dean said. “We will be working with the state tourism agency to encourage visitors to return when appropriate. While much of the national attention has been on other areas of the country, we know the focus will soon shift to our area, so we are prepared to respond quickly.”
Researchers at the Brittain Center surveyed 318 websites of vacation rental properties available to rent in Horry and Georgetown counties and found more than 54 percent are reserved for the coming week starting Saturday. That means that reservations in Horry and Georgetown counties for next week are up 6 percent compared with the same week of 2015.