There’s good news and bad news coming out of Myrtle Beach, SC heading into the fourth quarter of 2020. The bad news is that bookings since April never reached pre-pandemic levels. Even now, with many markets seeing an extended shoulder season, the streets are mostly empty along the Grand Strand. A few travelers taking a long weekend can be seen coming in and out of high rises along the coastline – a couple of which came all the way from Europe. For the most part, this market lost revenue when closures hit in March and never recovered it in the months following.
Why Low Bookings?
Myrtle Beach, SC is primarily a drive-to vacation rental market, which should have worked in its favor, as people stayed off airplanes for the majority of 2020. A couple of factors worked against this though.
- Myrtle Beach was a “hot spot” for spikes in COVID-19 cases in June and July. The vacationers trying to stay safe while still getting away, preferred destinations with plenty of accommodations for families, even extended families. The preference being single family homes, hopefully not too close each other. Myrtle Beach has even spread of condos, townhomes and single family homes, so not as many options for the 2020 preferences.
- Golf courses limited access deterred groups. It was like a one-two punch for this popular four-season market. Even though the golf courses where allowed to open, a major draw for this area, they could only do socially distant parties per government regulations.
- Most of the counties folks drive from to reach Myrtle Beach remained open for business – meaning restaurants and venues were hosting guests locally. This was not the case in drive-to locations for Outer Banks, NC. Those drive-from markets were in a take-out only or very limited capacity mode for many weeks.
- “Zoom-school,” as it is fondly referred to by parents, allowed drive-from visitors to stay in the Outer Banks while still working and doing online classes. Schools in drive-from markets for Myrtle Beach went back to school at the end of summer either totally in-person or split between in-person and online – an option Outer Banks visitors did not have.
While Myrtle Beach is considered a four-season market, it is not seeing the visitor traffic to its vacation rental websites, nor the advanced bookings it had last year. What property managers say they have their eyes on next is the upcoming election, as they expect the economy to move one way or the other based on its outcome.
Vacation rental companies here are toying with some lower than average rates for spring to entice visitors to return if conditions are conducive to do so. Brainstorming ideas in a vacuum is hard though and most of the contacts we spoke with had not been in contact with many of their peers.
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