Myrtle Beach tourist numbers reflect a ‘new normal’

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce said tourist numbers were off to a slow start this summer but ended on a high note.

“We expanded promotion into several new markets this year,” said Chamber President/CEO, Brad Dean. “We also were benefiting from additional air service, so it made it easier for people outside of our drive range to fly in,” he added.

Dean said the numbers have been fluctuating in a trend he calls the “new normal.” That fluctuation is due to many factors, including the travel trends of millennials, who tend to book vacations last-minute.

“This changing visitor pattern is not only changing the time when people come, but it’s also having an impact on business planning. If you don’t know when the tourists are coming, or they’re making last-minute reservations, it changes your staffing plans,” said Dean. “It forces businesses to be agile, nimble and adapt quickly.”

Staff members at local businesses, like The Gay Dolphin on Ocean Boulevard, said those fluctuating numbers make it hard to plan for staffing changes.

“You never really know whats going to happen. You never know how many people are going to be here on a given week,” said manager of The Gay Dolphin, Michelle Kerscher. “So you prepare as best you can.”

Kerscher says overall, it’s hard to find people to work in the summer.

“We are not the only ones that struggle with this. We place ads constantly throughout the summer and people are either unrealistic about the wages in Myrtle Beach, which we pay much higher than minimum wage, but they’re still unrealistic about that or they want to work part-time or they have very specific schedules,” added Kerscher.

To make sure the store is filling voids when extra tourists come, the store’s owner, Buz Plyler, says they have to work together.

“We all work harder. We don’t have the option of hiring many more people. Generally speaking, there are not many more available. When it gets busy, it gets busy for everybody and the staff is actually stretched thinner,” said Plyler.

Dean said while this is tough for businesses, the number of tourists coming in helps Myrtle Beach overall. He says the increase in tourists towards the end of the summer is a good indication for the fall.

“Roughly half or more of our tourism occurs during June, July and August, so the fact that we’ve had a strong finish to the summer not only bodes well for the businesses in the tourism industry, it also gives a good indication that we’re in for a very solid fall season and that’s our hope for the rest of the tourism year,” added Dean.

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