MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Sports tourism in the Grand Strand is growing as this week’s Myrtle Beach Invitational draws in thousands of people from around the country.

Executive Director of Sports Tourism for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber Of Commerce, Jonathan Paris, said they’re expecting to be above pre-pandemic levels for sports tourism this year.

“We’ve had a lot of people who have never been here before, and they’ve really seen the destination, and hopefully they’ll come back on vacation,” he said.

With eight collegiate basketball teams throughout the country and the thousands of fans that follow, the Myrtle Beach Invitational is a great boost for sports tourism in the area. 

“This event does two different things for us. One, it’s a huge marketing, [it] shows off the beach, it shows off the Visit Myrtle Beach brand and then secondarily, it brings a lot of visitors in,” Paris said.

Sports tourism has always played a big role for the city when attracting newcomers, and events like the Invitational help those efforts even more in a traditionally slower time of year.

“It has elevated the region and really showcases that Myrtle Beach is a good destination for events like this, not just your youth amateur events, but that we can host these big national events that draw folks from all over the country,” he said.

And for the many fans visiting from out of state, like Tim DeGeeter, he looks at this as an opportunity to spread the word about the kind of destination spot the Grand Strand has to offer.

“Those colleges, those fans, those parents, those students come here check this out, maybe go back to their respected corner and they’ll tell people, ‘hey go check out Myrtle Beach, come here spend some money and enjoy the good time in the Carolina’,” DeGeeter said.

According to Paris, the Myrtle Beach invitational ultimately helped spike sports tourism one step further, as they now prepare for the Myrtle Beach Bowl, which will be hosted in December.