MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — International travelers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are once again welcome in Myrtle Beach again, as the U.S. on Monday opened up non-essential travel from foreign 33 countries.
The American land borders with Mexico and Canada also opened Monday to non-essential travelers for the first time since March 2020.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce said the Grand Strand is ready to host international visitors again after looking forward to the reopening for weeks. The chamber focused on Canadian tourists at its reopening celebration on Monday.
Although Canadians account for just 3% of all visitors to the Grand Strand, they are a large majority of international visitors. According to Karen Riordan, the chamber’s president and CEO, the percentage of Canadian visitors is almost triple that of the next two top groups: Brits and Germans.
Riordan said the Grand Strand’s relationship with Canadians goes back decades.
“They love it,” Riordan said. “They love everything that we love about the Grand Strand, so having them come back and not having anymore interruption––you know, another year without them would be hurtful to our economy––so it’s important that we welcome them back with open arms.”
One of the industries hurt by the lack of international travel last year was the local golf industry. Bill Golden, CEO of Golf Tourism Solutions, said golf courses rely on “snowbirds” who stay in Myrtle Beach for weeks at a time and play multiple rounds a week during the shoulder season.
Golden said the resumption of non-essential international travel, mostly by Canadians, should provide a boost to the industry.
“It’s great to see things open up because that’s a big piece of business and our relationship with the Canadians,” Golden said. “We need to go back in and restore that relationship and bring them back to the beach.”
Golden said web traffic from Canada on certain playgolfmyrtlebeach.com pages is up 85% in recent weeks.
“That tells us there’s cabin fever,” Golden said. “They’re beginning to realize we can go on vacation now. They’re exploring, and so that pent up demand we’re beginning to see that turn into activity for us here at the beach.
Michael Henry flew into Myrtle Beach from Toronto Monday. He said it’s his sixth visit to Myrtle Beach but first in more than two years.
Henry said he came for one thing and one thing only.
“Golf,” Henry said.” “Got to get the golf in. We had a great season in Ontario this year, but I wanted to extend it an extra few days.”
Henry is in Myrtle Beach with a friend and said he plans to play all six days at least two rounds a day. He said the vacation is a much-needed getaway from Canadian COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s nice to just come here and relax and be carefree basically,” Henry said. “It’s been good.”