Myrtle Beach area hotel occupancy outpacing pre-pandemic numbers

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A national study suggests Myrtle Beach will be the third most popular travel destination this summer as hotel occupancy along the Grand Strand is already outpacing 2019 numbers this season.

Trip Advisor says Myrtle Beach, only led by Cancun, Mexico, and Orlando, Florida, will be the most popular travel destination this summer.

A recently launched lodging dashboard from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC) reflects hotel occupancy along the Grand Strand outpacing that of the same time in 2019, before the pandemic.

According to the MBACC data, on this day in 2019, hotels were 40.8% full and now they are 56.6% occupied. The dashboard also shows a 60-day projection. That is something MBACC President and CEO, Karen Riordan said is not the best indicator of how many travelers will be in town on any given day because people are booking more last-minute trips than ever.

“We have already seen that in March and April where we talk to hotels and see this report on Wednesday one thing, like occupancy is at 45% and then by Friday afternoon the occupancy would jump all the way to 70%,” Riordan explained.

Riordan said this is a new trend for our area, but it’s one they believe will stick around. City leaders believe increased marketing, a pent up desire to travel and rescheduled vacations are creating the perfect storm for a potentially record-breaking travel season.

“We used to come about every other year before COVID started,” said Mike Pawlikowski, a Grand Strand visitor from Delaware. “We had a trip planned for October and then COVID exploded. They told us to reschedule it.”

Increased hotel occupancy means more traffic for local businesses.

“We’ve had a fantastic stretch,” said Justin Plyler, owner of The Gay Dolphin. “We’re up 19% since two years ago, over the best year we ever had and this year we’re well over 30% above that.”

Plyler says one challenge all local businesses are facing right now is the staffing shortage.

“It’s hard to get help because of the stimulus and that is true with everybody that I talk to, but nevertheless we’re doing great and we’re going to take advantage of it while we can.”

Riordan says with the influx of last-minute travelers and shortage of staff at local hotels, restaurants and attractions, employers are having to get creative.

“We need to really double down to do whatever we can to make it a good guest experience,” she said. “Especially for someone that this is their first time. They are proving to be very resilient and very nimble. They are having to change their game plan. They have one game plan on Wednesday and another one on Friday.”

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