Grand Strand tourism industry, Airbnb owners take a hit from COVID-19

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Between event cancellations and attraction closings, the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce President says COVID-19 has already started to affect the tourism industry.

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Karen Riordan tells News13 the tourism industry in Myrtle Beach is being wounded badly by the coronavirus, and one Airbnb owner in Myrtle Beach tells News13 she’s feeling the effects.

“It doesn’t take much to realize that it has taken an immediate effect,” said Conway Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Devin Parks.

The World Health Organization deemed coronavirus a pandemic just two weeks ago on March 11, but the Grand Strand’s tourism industry is already being impacted.

“When the CDC announced that this was a pandemic, cancellations were just coming in left and right,” said Elizabeth Muckensturm.

Elizabeth Muckensturm is a teacher and a grad school student, but she also owns two Airbnb’s in Myrtle Beach.

“I started doing this as a way to supplement both of those. Both pay my student loans, and pay my college tuition, so knowing that I’m not going to have money coming in on the rentals, it’s really scary,” said Muckensturm.

For April, Airbnb predicts she’ll see 70 to 80% lower occupancy for her rentals.

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Karen Riordan says that with every week the pandemic continues, the negative impact on tourism will deepen.

Downtown Conway is seeing a paralleled situation. “From a downtown standpoint, the commerce is really let down a little bit,” said Parks. “Conway is growing, and the impact of this virus is going to be felt nationwide.”

“I have a lot of friends that still work in the hotels and resorts and restaurants, and it’s been so sad to see people being laid off, businesses having to close, and I’m really afraid of the economic impact it’s going to have on this area,” said Muckensturm.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber says they’ll help the industry recover with tax credits and aid packages coming from the state and nation.

“One of the things that really worries me is my bookings for April and May are down, my summer, nobody’s really canceled yet, but if this is prolonged like they’re thinking that it will be, how will this affect the summer months, when that’s the time that we make the most money,” said Muckensturm.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Riordan says that Myrtle Beach could see 50% of its workforce furloughed or laid off temporarily.

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