SC tourism feeling impact of recent concert and festival event cancellations

Tourism industry feels impact of recent event cancellations
Tourism industry feels impact of recent event cancellations(WMBF News File Video)
Updated: Aug. 14, 2020 at 11:29 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Local and state officials are getting a better idea of how the impact coronavirus is having on South Carolina’s tourism industry, as concerts and festivals that draw thousands of people are either being canceled or postponed.

Over the past several days, several major events across the Grand Strand have also made the tough decision to cancel popular events, including Carolina Country Music Fest and the Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival.

Not only is it a loss for event-goers, but it’s taking a toll on the state’s tourism industry, hoping to fill up hotels with visitors during a slower summer season.

The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism notes big events like CCMF draw thousands of tourists to the area, and is normally reflected in the number of people renting hotel rooms.

With many of those of events now canceled or postponed, the agency is seeing a significant difference in the hotel numbers.

Dawn Dawson-House, Director of Corporate Communication South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, said revenue from hotel occupancy has gone down statewide compared to this time last year, but it’s just too soon to know how much of that drop is connected to live event cancellations.

“We’ve also had a loss of hotel room nights sold,” she said. “Year to date, we are down 30% in hotel room nights sold across the state. How much of that is attributed to festivals, we don’t know. What we do know during this pandemic, festivals have been a huge tourism [attraction] to a lot of our destinations. Their cancellations matter. We just haven’t yet dug into the details to know how much it matters.”

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Karen Riordan added the cancellation of big shows, like CCMF, is hurting some lodging industries. She said compared to this time last year, short term rentals appear to not be as high in occupancy, because of the pandemic.

Riordan said if hotels aren’t getting visitors, it becomes a trickle-down effect for other Grand Strand businesses.

“When people do visit and come to an event, we love that,” she said. “Not only are they buying event tickets, they’re staying in hotels, eating out at restaurants, visiting the attractions, they’re doing a number of other things in addition to the events. So losing those events does slow down the overall amount of tourism coming to the Grand Strand.”

The latest lodging study from Coastal Carolina University compares occupancy numbers for numerous hotels, condo and campsites over the last six week period, comparing those stats to occupancy rates in the same time frame last year.

The study revealed a nearly 45% decrease in revenue this year for those businesses.

CCU Lodging Study Results
CCU Lodging Study Results(CCU)

CCU Professor and Director of Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism Taylor Damonte said the reason for the occupancy number drops could be contributed to a number of reasons that impact tourists coming to the area, including weather conditions and the pandemic, not necessarily because an event is canceled.

Regardless, Damonte said he’s optimistic about more tourists wanting vacation along the Grand Strand this fall.

“If there are no storms forecast and the COVID-19 numbers continue to decline, and social media reflects a marketplace that is social distancing and masking, we’ll have a good fall,” he said. “But to the degree those things don’t happen, it will be less [likely].

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