Issac Bailey

Economic impact: Myrtle Beach needs more of ‘Myrtle Manor’ and Bikefest?

Does “Trailer Park: Welcome to Myrtle Manor” really have a $101 million economic impact on the Myrtle Beach economy?
Does “Trailer Park: Welcome to Myrtle Manor” really have a $101 million economic impact on the Myrtle Beach economy?

What to make of the claim reality TV show “Trailer Park: Welcome to Myrtle Manor” has an economic impact of $101 million?

That figure comes from Karen Maguire, a Coastal Carolina University accounting professor.

“Unbelievably amazing,” Dana Painter, whose family owns the park, told my colleague Charles Perry. “It greatly exceeded anything we could have ever dreamed of.”

Part of Maguire’s claim is based upon solid figures — money spent by the production crew, tourists buying merchandise — totaling about $2.8 million. Most of it is built upon hard-to-nail-down assumptions.

Maguire believes each hour of the show is akin to a 30-second commercial, amounting to $3.3 million of free promotion for Myrtle Beach. Then there’s “induced tourism.”

“So if 1 percent of the people that come to visit the Grand Strand believe that any of their decision was influenced by Myrtle Manor and what they saw, that is $101 million a year of economic impact,” Maguire told Perry.

I’ve seen too many economic models be wrong to take the number at face value.

Many economic projections are based upon predicting nebulous human behavior — like who might be moved by a 30-second commercial.

Even the best researchers can misread what’s driving the economy.

As we were edging into the worst recession since the Great Depression, economists believed economic growth would continue.

Economic models predicted the dramatic fall in gas and oil prices would increase consumer spending and super-charge the economy — but that hasn’t happened yet.

Trying to predict how many tourists were “induced” by Myrtle Manor is even more difficult. Who knows how many people avoid Myrtle Beach because of the show?

But if we want to go that route any way, a few things need to be considered.

When debate about the Georgetown port was raging in 2010, a Coastal report said that adding 3 million tons of cargo a year would have a $27 million economic impact. In 1998, another Coastal study said the steel mill in Georgetown, then operating at a brisk capacity, had a $131 million annual impact.

Do those numbers make the Myrtle Manor effect more or less believable? Then again, that number seems large until you realize that a Coastal study says the Myrtle Beach tourism market has a $6.5 billion economic impact. The Myrtle Manor effect is about a percent and a half of that.

Or think about it this way.

During the peak of the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce estimated that event drew 450,000 people. Using that number and another Coastal study, it brought in $34 million a day — not including indirect effects — meaning that three days of Bikefest had a bigger economic impact than a year of “Myrtle Manor.”

Isn’t it obvious we need more of “Myrtle Manor” and an expanded Bikefest?

Before contemplating that, though, a quick question.

Anybody know the economic impact of Myrtle Beach area strip clubs?

Note: An earlier version of this column incorrectly attributed the estimated $6.5 billion economic impact of the area’s tourism industry to researcher D.K. Shifflet & Associates.

Contact ISSAC BAILEY at ibailey@thesunnews.com or on Twitter @TSN_IssacBailey.

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