Short-term rental companies expect slow start after coronavirus ban is lifted

Grand Strand

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – Short-term rental companies and hotels in many parts of the county are getting ready to open back up for business, but some aren’t expecting many guests right away.

While some people have returned to Garden City Beach, popular places like Sam’s Corner are still closed. It’ll reopen Friday, which is the same day short-term rentals like cottages and hotels can too.

That may not mean business as usual in Garden City.

“Anybody worried that this is going to look like the Fourth of July next week, it’s not going to happen,” said Ryan Swaim, general manager of Dunes Realty, which has rental homes in the Garden City-Murrells Inlet area.

Swaim says last week was the first time customers made more reservations than cancellations since the pandemic began. Since the spring bike rally is also canceled, Swaim says the first half of May won’t be very busy for him.

He says about 20 cottages will be rented out for the week starting on Saturday, May 2, and 30 cottages for the week of Saturday, May 9.

“We’re going to have an occupancy of about 5%, which is obviously not a great occupancy to have if you’re in our business, but for the first weekend opening back up, we think it’s appropriate,” Swaim said. “It’ll give us a chance to try out some of our new cleaning protocols.”

That includes increasing how much is cleaned for weekly rentals in spots like light switches, remotes and door knobs. Dunes Realty staff cleans the rentals out after every week of a group’s stay ends, usually on Saturday.

Along with Horry County’s unincorporated areas like Garden City, Surfside Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Georgetown County are also letting short-term rentals resume Friday. Travelers from coronavirus “hotspots” like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut still can’t rent though.

Swaim is also vice chair of Horry County’s accommodations tax advisory committee. That helps figure out how that money can fund things like the county’s police and fire rescue.

He says many in tourism are expecting between 10 to 25 percent less business this year.

“We’re still going to see a downturn this summer because I think there are a lot of people that just aren’t going to travel at all,” said Swaim.

Some residents are concerned about letting out-of-state tourists return so soon, but Swaim says it can be done safely.

“We’re not doing anything that we think is going to endanger anyone’s health here,” he said. “It’s just time to get back open again. It’s time to start welcoming visitors back here.”

Myrtle Beach still has not approved reopening short-term rentals, but city council is expected to discuss the issue in an emergency meeting Thursday at 10 a.m.


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