Mike Anderson arrived in Myrtle Beach at the end of August to take up the mantle of Executive Director of Sports Tourism for the Myrtle Beach Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. When we spoke with him, he was already on the road, attending trade shows and courting potential groups with an eye on increasing visitors to the Grand Strand, especially in the off-season.
“Every fall, it’s heavy, heavy travel in the sports tourism industry,” he said. “Being a one-man-show, you have to be everywhere. You have to go where the customers are. It’s just crazy.”
Born in Spartanburg, Anderson, 44, garnered a business degree at North Carolina State University and went on to work for Hilton Hotels for a decade. This work took him to Atlanta and later, Charlotte, N.C., where he ultimately went to work for the Charlotte Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“As a kid growing up, we always visited the Myrtle Beach area – Pirateland, Ocean Lakes, Kingston Plantation,” he said. “Every summer, we came to Myrtle Beach – and it has always been a destination that inspired me because there is always so much to do. It always has so much to offer.”
Anderson started in the service side at Hilton Hotels – groups, meetings, conventions and shows. “I was setting up things of that nature, but I always had a passion for sales. This is where my heart was – so I moved into sales at Hilton Hotels, and we had a piece of sports as it was.”
He said the term “sports tourism” has become a buzzword. “It’s been around for a long time, but we just didn’t call it that.” When he was growing up and playing sports, he said that he and his teammates stayed in other peoples’ homes. “This has transitioned over the years into hotels, and it has morphed into a huge business on the sports side and therefore, tourism.”
“This is one of those industries that it’s the same thing every day but it’s different. It’s a relationship business. The people that I deal with are salt-of-the-earth people,” he said. “Sports tourism has always enticed me: How can I help you come to my area – regardless of what the sport is – to benefit my area?”
Anderson is on the executive committee of the National Association of Sports Commissions, and is very engaged in the market. “I want to learn more as things in the industry continue to change – and the industry is still relatively new.” While he was in Charlotte, he also served as chairman of the North Carolina Sports Association.
He said some people get misguided about sports tourism.
“This could be a meeting or a convention. It could be a trade show. It’s not just competition that effects the tourism industry. “
He is traveling because now is the time when people are looking for a home for their events. “They are out shopping their meetings, trade shows and competitions. Most of them are [painting] with a broad brush. In this industry, they don’t typically look two-three-four years down the road. They are looking for next year – trying to find a place to put their national event. It’s a very short-term business.”
Anderson asserts that Myrtle Beach sells itself during what he calls the hundred days of summer. “I want you to come when it’s cold – when it’s December,” he said. “Bring me your fall, bring me your spring. I am trying to steer them away from the hundred days of summer to really push where we need it as an industry-at-large in our market. We are already taken care of in the middle of the summer.”
And what about the anticipated March opening of the new Myrtle Beach Sports Center?
“It’s still on track with no delays right now,” he said. “The buzz is already out there, so I continue to push the buzz. Quite a few events are already booked.”
He is working with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce on a sports alliance program encompassing the entire Grand Strand. “It’s all 60 miles from Little River all the way down to Georgetown,” he said.
Anderson, an avid golfer, said he would play every day if he could. “With over 100 golf courses, I am just salivating. But what is crazy is that I have been here seven weeks now and haven’t been on one yet.”
And he is also a foodie. “I am a huge supporter of local fare,” he said. “I bounced around and tried quite a bit since I have been here, but I can’t tell say I have found my favorite place. I couldn’t begin to tell you what it is.” He refers to the ocean as “God’s pool.”
He is a proud father of two: Johnathan (18) and Julee (15).