June 5, 2023


Just Do Travel

Myrtle Beach SC hotels, Airbnbs, VRBOs booming after COVID

Myrtle Beach’s economy is back in a big way.

From hotel occupancy rates to airport activity and consumer spending — which all hit record highs in 2021 — South Carolina’s most-popular tourism region has broken out of its COVID slump, a top economic development official told city leaders Tuesday.

“That’s something that I think our industry and our community should feel great about. Everybody worked really hard to show significant recovery after the downsides of 2020,” Karen Riordan, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said at a City Council meeting.

Not only did Myrtle Beach lead the nation in lodging recovery rates with a 38% year-over year jump, but visitor spending more than doubled from 2020, to $1.9 billion — a 58% uptick, Riordan said.

“Not only were people here last year, they were spending, they were indulging certainly with their lodging but also their spending and retail,” Riordan said.

JLL, a Chicago-based real estate firm that tracks the hospitality industry, said tourism-heavy areas can expect to see continued growth in 2022.

“Consumers’ insatiable appetite for experiences, travel and hospitality will fuel high levels of demand as international borders fully reopen and business travel’s recovery accelerates,” the firm said in a sector outlook published earlier this month.

“Coupled with a relatively muted supply pipeline, this will enable the lodging industry to recover earlier than anticipated, making for greater investment opportunities in the sector. “

Riordan said unprecedented activity at the Myrtle Beach International Airport in 2021 suggests that’s true. The facility counted a record 3.2 million passengers last year, with more than a half million in July alone.

It’s a rebound that makes Warren Beckham, general manager of the Inlet Sports Lodge, smile.

His boutique hotel is Murrells Inlet is a short walk from the town’s upscale eateries, and patrons get exclusive rates on golf packages.

Beckham said the lodge averaged a 60% occupancy rate last year — a record clip since its 2010 opening — and he expects volume to be even greater in 2022.

“Everyone wants to be somewhere where they can stretch out, and not bump elbows with everybody,” he said. “Understanding how the public travels, maybe they have a few extra pennies in their pockets, and we’re the beneficiaries of that.”

Inlet Lodge
The Inlet Sports Lodge in Murrells Inlet is among Grand Strand-area hotels benefiting from a tourism boom Inlet Sports Lodge

This story was originally published March 23, 2022 12:00 AM.