MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The ban on travel between the United States and Canada was extended in October through Nov. 21, and one Myrtle Beach hotel manager says that and the continuous rise in coronavirus cases is already affecting tourism along the Grand Strand in November.

At Oceans One Hotel along Ocean Boulevard, officials say the hotel usually fills up on the weekends during November, with 60% of guests staying monthly.

But with travel bans and the pandemic, things are different.

“There’s nothing you can do to prepare for the loss of business,” said Ray Booth, Oceans One general manager. “The business was good through the summer, the rates were just down. I mean, we had plenty of people.”

Now, the 60% of Booth’s 65 and older guests that usually stay monthly starting in November are thinking twice due to COVID-19.

“For November, about three quarters of our monthly stays have decided that it would probably be best for them to stay home,” said Booth.

Plus, Booth says the ban on travel between the U.S. and Canada is causing a drop in occupancy too.

“It’s actually been a little bit of strange year,” he said.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce tells News13 although international travelers account for a very small percentage of the city’s annual visitors, Canada accounts for the majority of international visitors.

Statement from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce

Canadian Marketing Update

The Myrtle Beach area is a popular drive-to destination. International travelers account for a very small percentage of our annual visitors (about 2%), with Canada accounting for the majority of international visitors (80 to 90% of international). Most Canadian snowbirds and families choose to drive here. And while there is pent-up demand to travel, there is very little opportunity as the border remains closed and Canadian government is still recommending local travel.  It is too early to know what, if any, impact the virus will have on our Canadian guests who frequent the Grand Strand in the winter months.  We anticipate they will resume traveling to our area once the border reopens, and we expect to see a stronger return of Canadians in 2021.

Canadian sentiment:

Canadian consumers are showing signs of wanting to travel to the U.S. in 2021. There is much pent-up demand to travel, especially during the winter months of January to April and the Myrtle Beach area is an ideal choice for a winter vacation or long stay. However, there are several remaining questions such as will the borders reopen in November and will there be self-quarantine measures in place in Canada following travel to the United States? If the 14-day quarantine measure is lifted and the border opens to non-essential travelers, we expect to see Canadians resume travel to the U.S.

Our Canadian marketing efforts:

Since March, our focus on our Canadian visitors has been inspirational, to keep the Myrtle Beach area top of mind for future travel. Tactics include email blasts, virtual travel trade shows, webinars and continuous communication with travel agencies and their consumers. Messaging has included “sharing some sunshine” and “when you’re ready, we’re ready.” When the border opens, our plan is to relaunch the “new” normal, including the health and safety protocols, the benefits and value of visiting the Myrtle Beach area, and sending the strong message to our snowbirds through the Canadian Snowbird Association that we welcome our Canadian Snowbirds back to the beach. Our Can-Am Days and special offers for Canadians from January through April have always been popular and we’ll be ready to promote those when the time comes. 

With the chamber pointing out that there’s a pent-up demand for travel, Booth says between that and a possibility for a vaccine, he hopes the winter months will be good economically.

“There are still some people that are traveling,” he said. “Hopefully if they can get a vaccine out quickly, you know, the other people will feel more comfortable in doing that.”

Booth tells me the government funding they received ran out quick in July and that he hasn’t heard if they’ll receive any more CARES Act funding.