MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina — Cool and wet weather combined to keep tourists away from the Grand Strand in April.
The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reports (http://bit.ly/10NBSxa) lodging occupancy and average daily rates were down from the same period a year ago. Tourism trackers were expecting a slight increase.
Taylor Damonte of Coastal Carolina University's Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism says weather plays more of a role during the spring and fall because there's more spur-of-the-moment travel.
"The temperature was down and precipitation was higher. During the spring and the fall of the year, there is a statistical relationship between the weather forecast and the occupancy, Damonte said "(Potential) visitors get up on Monday morning, look at the forecast and if it's a 100 percent chance of rain, they don't come."
Average lodging occupancy and rates for the six weeks from March 24 through May 4 were down significantly compared to the same six-week period in 2012. Hotel and condotel occupancy was down 8.5 percent, while average daily rates were off 3.6 percent. Vacation rental properties were down 5.8 percent, and rental rates fell 10 percent.
The upcoming weeks don't show much promise, bringing uncertainty into the summer tourism outlook and hinting that there might be more issues negatively influencing travel than just the weather. Reservations for vacation rental properties don't show improvement — comparing a week this year to the same week last year — until mid-June, Damonte said.
"So I just don't know what the rest of the summer will bring at this point," he said. "We believe weather played a role this spring but there may be other macroeconomic factors and other consumer factors. So we will just have to wait and see."
Some properties still were able to stay about even in April compared to April 2012, but admit their numbers would have been better if the weather had cooperated. Bad weather tends to keep the last-minute bookers and weekend visitors away.
"Weather has definitely had a hindrance on business for sure," said Don Hovis with Springmaid Beach Resort in Myrtle Beach.
But not all the weekends were a bust. For example, the beach was busy during the St. Patrick's Day weekend in March, which featured the usual holiday celebrations as well as cheerleaders for a competition and more than 3,000 car enthusiasts for the Pee Dee Street Rodders 25th Anniversary Run to the Sun show.
Information from: The Sun News, http://www.thesunnews.com/