MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) — The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce said that 2020 was a year of ups and downs for the tourism industry.
“We actually started 2020 on an upward spin feeling really good about this year. January, February occupancy revenues were up over 2019 so we were really looking forward to having a good year and of course all that changed in March,” said Karen Riordan, President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Riordan said as COVID-19 cases started to rise in March, the Chamber of Commerce decided to close lodging until May, hoping they could contain the virus to save the tourism season for the summer.
“Our May was very very high in terms of occupancy and visitors, only to be followed by a downward trend as COVID started to rise around the country including in South Carolina and the grand strand,” Riordan said.
Riordan added that in May, they saw that Myrtle Beach was the top searched destination in the world according to Google saying, “more people were typing in Myrtle Beach and looking at us and trying to look at planning ahead.”
As expected, Riordan said the summer months were down compared to 2018 and 2019.
“July and August were down compared to 2018 and 2019 pretty significantly so that was pretty worrisome for tourism. The bright spots of this year have actually been September and October which we didn’t forecast,” Riordan said.
Riordan said there was a silver lining when it came to the Fall saying, “September will have exceeded the 2019 and 2018 totals for September occupancy revenues and October was also quite good and mother nature blessed us with some nice weather those 2 months.”
“We were happy to come a little bit around the corner this year. November and December are normally our quietest months of the year so we did have some good activity around Thanksgiving,” Riordan said.
Riordan said she thinks it’s due to people having cabin fever and deciding to travel places they could drive to easily.
“We get so much of our visitation from our neighbor states. North Carolina, West Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio,” Riordan said.
Riordan added that, “We have statistics that show 70 percent of the people that come to Myrtle Beach are repeat visitors, this is their preferred vacation.”
Riordan said that the City of Myrtle Beach relies on tourism to help fuel the economy and that the revenue pays for public safety, public works, and city services.
“It’s really really important that we fire up the tourism engine again for 2021 for the sake of the revenues of the city so that all of us who live in the grand strand can continue to have that quality of life and all the services that we get as a result of the tourism economy,” Riordan said.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is predicting that the first quarter of 2021 will remain quiet but will pick back up in the summer months.