Golfers, families and reunions and
convention attendees made up the biggest chunk of the 14 million
visitors who experienced Myrtle Beach, S.C., last year, but as the
year-round getaway continues to reinvent itself with more
attractions, diversions and investments, new markets emerge to tap
into its appeal.
The Myrtle Beach
area, popularly known as the Grand Strand, comprises 12 distinct
cities stretching along 60 miles of the South Carolina
always is changing, which is one reason it enjoys such a high
number of return visitors," said Jean Ann Brakefield, vice
president of the Myrtle Beach Area Convention Bureau.
"People come back
every few years to see what's new, what's hot and to revisit their
new marketing slogan of "It's not what you bring, it's what you
bring back" ties in with the multiplicity of activities and
such as 100 golf courses, a children's museum, a reptile park,
tidal creek tours, roller coasters, racetracks, theaters, water
parks, outlet shopping centers and wildlife sanctuaries, the
destination's appeal lies in its diversity.
than $15 billion is being pumped into the Myrtle Beach area in new
construction, renovations and upgrades. New roads alone account for
an investment of more than $1 billion.
"The Grand Strand
has grown more than 35% in the past 10 years, and it
continues to evolve, giving way to a whole new Myrtle Beach area,"
include Hard Rock Park, a 140-acre, rock 'n' roll-themed amusement
park affiliated with the Hard Rock Cafe.
began in 2006 with an opening planned for 2008.
The $400 million
project calls for the construction of more than 40 attractions, a
live-music amphitheater, roller coasters, kids' play areas,
restaurants, cafes and retail stores. It is the first Hard Rock
Park anywhere in the world.
The next phase of
this project could be a Hard Rock Hotel, according to
The Market Common
at Myrtle Beach will be the Grand Strand's first
pedestrian-friendly urban village, combining residential and retail
development with six restaurants, 50 shops, apartments and
condominiums and a 16-screen movie complex, all located within one
mile of the beach.
Market Common at
Myrtle Beach is due to open in late spring 2008.
the Market Common will serve as the urban retail center of Myrtle
Beach with a focus on the luxury market.
The Grand Strand
has airlift that some destinations can only dream about, including
scheduled service by Spirit, Delta, Continental, Northwest, US
Airways, United Express and Myrtle Beach Direct.
New flights this
year include US Airways' daily nonstop service from New York
(LaGuardia), Spirit's daily flight from Fort Lauderdale and Myrtle
Beach Direct's service from Newark, Pittsburgh and Niagara Falls,
launched twice-weekly service from Allentown, Pa., in March; on May
25, flights will begin from Cincinnati and Charleston,
Delta beefed up
its seat capacity from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach by 30% for the
In all, 2,200
passenger seats are available on a daily basis from more than 15
To handle that
traffic volume, Myrtle Beach Airport plans a $200 million expansion
that will include a three-level terminal complex with 14 gates that
can accommodate aircraft as small as commuter jets and as large as
terminal offers several restaurants and shops and wireless Internet
connections in the gate areas.
By the numbers
count is expected to top 20 million this year," Brakefield said.
"Myrtle Beach already is in the top 10 U.S. destinations in terms
of annual visitors. Only Orlando, Las Vegas, San Francisco and New
York are ahead of us."
Where do all
these visitors stay? At present, the Myrtle Beach area has more
than 460 hotels and 82,000 rooms, many of which are condos. New
properties include Marriott and Sheraton hotels.
Ownership recently introduced its brand to Myrtle Beach through the
reflagging of two of its resorts. Fairfield Myrtle Beach at Ocean
Boulevard now is the Wyndham Ocean Boulevard, and the former
Fairfield Myrtle Beach at the Cottages now is the Wyndham at the
properties will be reflagged as Wyndhams within a year.
All exterior and
interior signage, collateral and marketing materials will reflect
the Wyndham brand.
accommodations options in Myrtle Beach, Brakefield said, "It's a
big room mix and a wide price range from beachfront resorts to
cottages, mom-and-pop motels, brand-name hotels and even
campgrounds. We can accommodate visitors in every price range. A
new push for us is the more affluent audience, but we don't want to
forget our tried-and-true reputation as a family vacation
What the tourism
officials also do not overlook is the importance of the travel
agent business. In fact, one section of the destination's Web site,
MyrtleBeach.travel, is exclusive to the
wander onto that page are advised to click on a list of agents who
can help plan and book their trips. Meeting planner assistance,
group information and trip assistance links also direct business to
agents with those specific skills.
pay commissions are noted, as are special agent rates for
individual and group fam trips.
business accounts for 8% of total visitors, and the
250,000-square-foot Myrtle Beach Convention Center is large enough
to host more than 75% of the meetings that take place in the U.S.
each year, according to Brakefield.
"The center runs
at 80% occupancy year-round," she said. "We host multiple smaller
The golf market
constitutes 12% of annual business in Myrtle Beach. The largest
market is families, especially multigenerational bookings planned
drive to Myrtle Beach within a 12-hour radius make up 94% of
length of stay for all visitors is 5.2 days.
information on Myrtle Beach, visit www.myrtlebeach.travel or call (800)
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].