Sunday’s first editorial:
The Myrtle Beach area drew an estimated 14 million visitors in 2010, more than 50 visitors for every permanent resident in Horry County. More than a third of the admissions and accommodations taxes collected in South Carolina are generated in Horry and Georgetown counties. Most of the jobs in the area can be tied, at least indirectly, to tourism and hospitality. In short, we’re a community built on tourism. That should be no surprise to anybody.
This coming week is National Travel and Tourism Week, when the industry gears up for another busy season and celebrates its past successes. In our area, despite some missteps, there have been plenty of successes to celebrate. That’s good news for all of us, because as tourism goes, so goes the rest of the Grand Strand. Even real estate, which drives much of the local economy, is largely built on the second home and tourist rental market.
This season opens with signs that we could be in for a good summer. New investment continues to reach the area, seen in the still-developing downtown and boardwalk area of Myrtle Beach, the explosion of zipline courses and new stores and restaurants opening up and down the coast. The expansion of our airport is continuing apace, as is work on upgrading U.S. 17. It’s hiring season, and many seasonal businesses have been holding encouraging job fairs, which will help get our region back to work.
Soft spots remain, perhaps most noticeably the failed theme park that sits unused and decaying off U.S. 501. There’s still also a wish list of infrastructure projects – like expanding U.S. 501 through Carolina Forest – that need to be addressed soon. But the pendulum is swinging in the right direction again. Local unemployment numbers are trending lower than last year. Occupancy numbers are headed up. And, most importantly, an attitude of optimism is returning among residents, a sense of better things ahead that has been absent in recent years.
If you’re reading this as a visitor to our area, welcome to the beach. We hope you’ll be back. If you’re a resident, buckle up. It’s going to be a busy few months. Keep smiling through.