Myrtle Beach area tourism has had several years of record growth and is forecasted to grow in 2019 due to strong travel demand and a strong U.S. economy. However, weather-related events impacting core visitor markets could slow tourism growth rate leading into 2019.
THE U.S. ECONOMY
The current state of the U.S. economy is strong with a very positive outlook. Positive indicators include high consumer confidence among both consumers and businesses, a tight labor market with wage growth, as well as growing consumer spending and business investment. Potential risks to the economic forecast include a possible trade war with China and accelerating inflation that could eat into wage gains and impact consumer spending later into the year.
The Myrtle Beach economy is heavily dependent upon leisure travel and that is directly impacted by consumer confidence. Fortunately, U.S. Consumer Confidence continues to surge as of August 2018 reaching 133.4, a near 18-year high, and future forecasts remain strong.
The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index stands at 133.4 as of August 2018, reaching a near 18-year high.
With 41% of Horry County’s workforce employed in Accommodations, Food Services, and Retail, the Myrtle Beach area continues to be heavily dependent on the tourism industry.
Higher after-tax earnings and a strong labor market continue to drive rising consumer confidence. American workers also remain upbeat about job security according to recent Gallup Work and Education survey.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, though a bit more volatile, continues to trend upwards, setting a new record high as recently as October 2018.
Employment in Myrtle Beach area feeder states directly impacts the wherewithal for visitors to travel to our destination. Unemployment rates remain at record lows while there is a tight labor market that will lead to wage growth.
The National Unemployment Rate is at 3.7% as of September 2018, a 50-year low. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
As of August 2018, the unemployment rates for key feeder states were all at or below the 3.9% national average, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Tennessee. Other key feeder states were slightly above, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York. Only West Virginia was significantly above the national average unemployment rate. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
As of August 2018, 7.14 Million job openings existed nationally, a record level. This was well in excess of the 6.23 Million classified as unemployed. (Labor Department)
Locally, the unemployment rate for Horry County in June, July, and August of 2018 was 4.8%, 4.9%, and 5.0%, respectively. The lowest point for these three months since 2000. (Chmura Economics and Analytics)
While these metrics are good news for the employee, employers could be faced with labor shortages and higher wages which could impact profits unless such costs can be passed through to the consumer.
Likelihood of Travel
U.S. Travel continues to benefit from a strong economy and is forecasted to grow in both travel spending and travel volume, although economists note that growth is slowing.
Travel to and within the U.S. grew 3 percent year-over-year in July, according to the U.S. Travel Association's Travel Trends Index (TTI). But the association's economists note that growth is slowing—putting the U.S. even further behind the pace of the sustained global travel boom.
The U.S. Travel Association forecasts continued growth in 2019, including 4.4% in Total Travel Spending in the U.S., 3.7% in Total International Visitors to the U.S., 1.8% in Total U.S. Domestic Person-Trips.
Myrtle Beach Demand
The Myrtle Beach area has experienced several years of record tourism growth and recent research indicates a strong interest to visit the destination in the next 12 months. However, the impact of weather-related events to core visitor markets, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, could impact visitor’s propensity to travel. Also, the Myrtle Beach area has been impacted by weather-related events during the fall for the past 4 years, which could also impact seasonal visitation demand in the future.
Nearly half of all respondents (47%) are interested in visiting Myrtle Beach for vacation during the next 12 months, according to findings reported in the September 2018 Myrtle Beach Research Wave Tracking Study conducted by MMGY Global. The 5-month average is 50.4%.
59% of visitors are interested in visiting again (5-month average – 63%)
35% of non-visitors are interested in visiting (5-month average – 37%)
Overall, 35% of those sampled are “likely” to visit Myrtle Beach in future and 56% of those who have previously visited are “likely” to visit again.
There is cause for concern regarding “residual effect” of Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael on our top feeder states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia. North Carolina sustained tremendous damage and is our top feeder state for visitors.
In 2018, prior to Florence, YTD occupancy was up year-over-year, in spite of an unusually cold start to the year.
For the last four years, Myrtle Beach area tourism has been negatively impacted by weather-related events during the fall season, including flooding in 2015, Hurricane Mathew in 2016, Hurricane Irma and Maria in 2017, and Hurricane Florence and Michael in 2018.
Myrtle Beach air service growth continues to outpace the national average and the state overall. Today, there is also more nonstop air service markets served at MYR than ever before. While air service schedules will not be released until later this year, continued growth is forecasted for 2019.
In 2017, 1,134,119 deplanements occurred at MYR, the first time over 1,000,000 and a new record.
In 2018, over 1,000,000 deplanements have occurred through September. In spite of Hurricane Florence, MYR is on track to set a new deplanement record in 2018.
In 2013, there were just 23 nonstop markets. Today we’ve more than doubled that to 49 nonstop markets at MYR, the largest in the state.
Officials continue to analyze strategic opportunities to grow and expand direct air service and related markets.
Group Travel to the Myrtle Beach destination continues to grow over the last several years and while growth has slowed a bit in 2018, we still project growth in 2019.
Groups have a $200 million economic impact on our economy. Our group sales team focuses on growing group tourism for meetings and conventions, sports, tour and travel, specialty (your military groups and reunions) and international travel.
In 9 years, group sales efforts have generated nearly 7,300 new leads. That represents a 120% increase since 2009.
Group Sales efforts have also generated over 1.5 million new room nights in the past 5 years. That’s a 200% increase since 2009.
After years of declining visitation from Canadians to the Myrtle Beach destination, recent data indicates growth in spend and a positive forecast looking ahead.
Canadian spend and visitation which had dropped measurably due to the strengthening US Dollar (falling Canadian exchange rate) has now shown 6 consecutive quarters of spending growth in the Myrtle Beach destination. (VisaVue®)
The U.S. Travel Association is forecasting that Canadian visitation to the U.S will increase by 2.6% in 2019.
Canada represents the most significant international visitor to the Myrtle Beach destination, comprising 80% - 92% of quarterly international visitation based on Visa credit card spending. (VisaVue®)
The Myrtle Beach lodging inventory continues to experience consistent growth, especially in vacation rental properties. While this is a good indicator for tourism growth and visitor demand, it also means increased competition among lodging properties.
A new lodging inventory study was completed in the spring of 2018. It estimated that 77,218 lodging units equating to 156,978-bedroom equivalents existed in Horry County.
The inventory study estimated the Hotel component of the inventory equated to 28,034 units or 36,583-bedroom equivalents.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber/CVB’s focus is to market the destination with an emphasis on driving demand for the destination, attracting new visitors, expanding geographic markets and building shoulder seasons. Recent studies demonstrate a strong advertising recall and interest in visiting the destination. However, upcoming budget cuts could have a negative impact on demand generation, advertising recall, and share of voice in the future.
Referring to the aforementioned Myrtle Beach Research Wave Tracking Study conducted by MMGY Global, nearly half of all respondents recall advertising for Myrtle Beach during the past 6 months (47%), unchanged since the survey’s inception.
Myrtle Beach, SC has the top advertising recall for its comp set at 47% with The Florida Keys/Key West destination coming in second at 35%.
Significantly more Carolina residents (65%) than those from any other region -- Northeast (46%), South (42%), Midwest (41%), Mid -Atlantic (39%) — recall seeing or hearing advertising for Myrtle Beach.
The impact of Hurricane Florence will reduce TDF and Accommodations Taxes received by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce in Quarter 1 of 2019 and thus associated marketing and promotional budgets.
Up to $1.5 million in TDF funds will be shifted from marketing to pubic safety beginning in 2019.
For additional research and statistics, please visit the Research Secton of this site.