Myrtle Beach sees slight growth in tourism tax collections

02/12/2013 7:00 AM

02/13/2013 7:15 AM

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO said in a presentation to City Council Tuesday that the investment the organization has put into advertising the city continues to pay off.

“Clearly if you’re looking at the investment that’s been made, the payoff has been huge,” said Brad Dean, president and CEO of the chamber.

In the third quarter of 2012, the city collected more than $8.2 million from a local option, 1 percent sales tax that goes toward tourism promotion, tax relief for city property owners and tourism-related capital improvement projects. That’s up from $7.8 million during the same time frame last year, a 7 percent increase.

Although the $8.2 million amount is for the July through September reporting period, it reflects actual collections made during the months of June, July and August.

There was a larger increase seen in the amount of money collected from the accommodations tax in the third quarter of 2012 over 2011. The city collected nearly $9 million in the third quarter of 2012, an increase of about 12 percent from the nearly $8 million collected in 2011.

“We’re seeing growth in the tourism fee and the accommodations tax, but that isn’t just good for tourism,” Dean said, adding that a lot of the money collected from the accommodations tax pays for things such as police and fire protection. “Steady growth in the tourism sector benefits not only the Grand Strand but the state as a whole.”

The chamber presents to city council every six months to keep members and the public in the loop about how the money is being spent, Dean said.

Myrtle Beach city spokesman Mark Kruea said there was a larger increase in the second quarter than the third quarter because there’s more room to grow.

“I wouldn’t expect double-digit growth in the summer months simply because of capacity,” he said.

The chamber of commerce receives 80 percent of the tax revenues to help pay for out-of-market tourism promotions. The remaining 20 percent goes toward lowering tax bills for the owners of property within the city limits.

Dean said that money has allowed them to increase the amount of marketing they do to bring visitors during the off season.

Scott Schult, executive vice president of marketing, told the council that the chamber would continue to generate first-time visitors, increase its marketing on digital media and increase focus on marketing to cities with direct air service to Myrtle Beach such as Toronto, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

“Any market with direct flights, we’re going to actively market it,” Dean said.

Dean also said the chamber will focus on marketing the city to groups, especially during the off season, to bring things such as conventions to Myrtle Beach.

“We’re going to invest more money in 2013 in group promotion than ever before in the shoulder season,” he said.

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