6 states caution travel to Myrtle Beach, America’s #1 covid hotspot

Dear travelers, please take note: according to the AAA of South Carolina, a recent ride-sharing data analysis by Greenbrier Partner Group indicates that Myrtle Beach — the world’s #1 vacation destination for adults 18-34, with an adult population of 1.8 million — tops the list for the second year in a row as the top destination for those 35 and over in the U.S.

Florida is coming in second and Utah tops the list for teens, with Myrtle Beach in sixth place and Miami in the seventh spot for adults. The full report is available here.

In 2017, the state got over 4.5 million visitor arrivals, and more than 17.8 million overnight stays. Hotels and restaurants boasted growth of 2.1 percent, to 40,045,481 guests, and long-term employment climbed by 4 percent to 47,190. The labor market, meanwhile, experienced a 9.1 percent increase in tourism and related jobs.

The state added 15,000 jobs from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018, adding 43,000 jobs in the past five years. When you consider that other parts of the South had made similar gains in overall job growth, Myrtle Beach looks even more amazing.

Travel trends are important, because Myrtle Beach tends to attract about 4.5 percent of all visits to the South and 2.8 percent of all visits nationally. Local hotels and restaurants take a huge hit when the destination suffers from declines in travel, but many tourism-related businesses (like plane rentals, restaurants, and hotels) tend to hold up during downturns because of the sheer number of people traveling.

Myrtle Beach regularly registers above-average growth in these categories, often above the national average. In 2018, the hotel, food, and beverage, and retail sectors posted the highest growth rates.

A large part of Myrtle Beach’s success is thanks to the pace of construction, which fuels an annual construction-supply factor of roughly 80, which remains among the highest rates in the country. That’s a strong competitive advantage, since it means visitors can come to the beach later in the season, before the cruise season, or for shorter drives (since the business jet industry prefers building during low-demand periods, and there are not that many cruise ships sailing off the Georgia coast).

However, this trend of high construction-supply growth, in addition to intensifying competition from other nearby destinations, is one reason why some businesses in the tourist industry are seeing revenue declines. In a recent Boston Globe article, we see the unhappy impact of an extraordinary boom-to-bust-to-boom cycle for a Myrtle Beach beer manufacturer:

Tams Brewers Ltd. was a regional leader in the booze industry, its cans a ubiquitous fixture across the Southeast. But three consecutive years of rapid growth ended in 2017, and a new leadership team at the North Myrtle Beach plant is searching for the recipe for a reinvigorated business. …

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