Tourism

Hermine may dampen business on last weekend of summer

jlee@thesunnews

Local resorts and rentals likely will see reservations drop substantially Friday as Tropical Storm Hermine brings rain, wind and a tornado risk to the Grand Strand.

Taylor Damonte, director of the Brittain Center for Resort Tourism, predicts that rentals along the entire Grand Strand would be at 85 to 90 percent capacity on Friday with perfect weather.

With the storm coming, that range has dropped to 60 to 65 percent, a significant dip in what many call the last weekend of the summer.

“Any time there’s a named storm that’s forecast, it has about a 25 percent impact on area-wide occupancy,” Damonte said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be forecast to be a direct hit.”

He said the storm will affect resort attendance not just because of the weather here, but because it may make travel difficult for visitors coming from other areas of the mid-Atlantic region.

If weather clears Saturday, however, occupancy numbers could rise, Damonte said. With the current weather forecast, he said improvement in later days of the weekend were likely.

Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said the storm will definitely impact restaurants and resorts along the strand.

“We don’t anticipate the weekend to be a total wash, but the threat of severe weather certainly puts a damper on those who might have made the decision to come here,” Dean said.

Dean also said that the storm’s affect on the many outdoor events this weekend could drive away the tourists who were coming to attend. As of Thursday afternoon, the Friday events for the Beach Boogie BBQ festival had been canceled, with Saturday’s schedule unaffected. The Coastal Uncorked food and wine festival at Broadway at the Beach was unchanged except for a chocolate tasting event that was moved to the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel on Friday.

Tom Moore, the general manager for Hampton Inn & Suites Oceanfront, said cancellations have slowly ramped up as the storm has gotten closer and more serious. The resort was at 95 percent capacity when he spoke to The Sun News on Thursday afternoon. However, he said he’d received 11 cancellations for Friday and 14 cancellations for Saturday.

“I’m sure that people are going to see the weather tonight and we’re going to get more cancellations,” Moore said. “It’s so nice out there right now you would never know we’re going to have a storm.”

The resort already has stored its patio furniture, Moore said, as a precaution. He also said he had offered one employee a room to stay in Friday night, but that person and many other people on his staff were not concerned about the storm.

Because Moore’s hotel was so full, he might not have many rooms to offer if the storm is worse than expected, he said.

“We don’t really have many rooms to give (workers) right now,” he said.

Chloe Johnson: 843-626-0381, @_ChloeAJ

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