I have been in the motel business in Myrtle Beach since 1972. This past July 4th was one of the worst ever. I own a quiet family motel and I have many repeat customers that come back year after year, and yet my revenue figures from Father’s Day weekend through July 18 were down 18 percent - and 25 percent from the same time period last year even though I have not raised the motel rates in three years. While some trends in local motel revenue can be attributed to July 4 falling on a Tuesday, it does not explain why there was not a single “No Vacancy” sign on Ocean Boulevard from June 18 through July 18. I had 15 vacant rooms on July 4 with little or no street traffic, and the same number of vacancies, if not more, for several weekends. That would have been unheard of in previous years.
Myrtle Beach City Council and Mayor John Rhodes seemed baffled by the drastic downturn in business along the Grand Strand. We are all waiting for someone to tell us they have a plan and they have things under control after four million plus people viewed the post of the Boulevard shooting on Facebook. If each one of those people even told even one person, eight million people viewed that horrible video. Families who decided to give us a chance anyway, hoping that it was simply an isolated incident between unruly teenagers, were welcomed by barricades and flashing warning signs that said “Surveillance Cameras In Use,” “Curfew Strictly Enforced, and “Be Careful.”
Motel desk clerks were confronted by guests after they arrive to find their family beach in what seemed to be lock down mode. Many demanded refunds to leave and go stay at a “safe beach.” Many had been choosing Myrtle Beach as their family beach vacation destination for years.
Ask Myrtle Beach business owners why there is little to no traffic at their businesses, and yet when they leave at the end of their work day, they are caught up in major traffic jams because tourists are heading to alternate beach destinations.
The problem is simple. First and foremost it is the video and all of the negative presence on social media that followed. This has caused tremendous damage to businesses in Myrtle Beach. Adding to the negative hype and state of panic were the barricades and large flashing warning signs that only seemed to validate the sense of danger
Violence, drugs and prostitution have become more of a problem over the last three to four years. Many business owners have been concerned but most, like myself, have been reluctant to say anything about it publicly for fear of scaring away tourists.
The problems need to be fixed and the public needs to be assured that the problems have been addressed. At least 50 percent of the chamber’s promotion budget should go towards safety. Not only do we need people to know about Myrtle Beach, we also need them to be assured that Myrtle Beach is still a family-friendly and safe place to visit.
The writer is a Myrtle Beach businessman.