This article is written by Karen Riordan, president and CEO of Visit Myrtle Beach. Known as the Grand Strand, the Myrtle Beach area stretches along 60 miles of pristine coastline from Little River to Georgetown. This premier vacation destination attracts more than 20 million visitors annually due to its beautiful beaches, wide variety of attractions and activities, a range of accommodations for every price point, delicious local cuisine and Southern hospitality.
For decades, the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina has been a beloved tourism destination, serving hospitality and generating family memories on 60 miles of beaches with hundreds of family attractions, golf courses and restaurants. And while we’re grateful that so many have visited our beautiful beaches since we officially reopened in late spring, it’s clear that adoration can sometimes be a double-edged sword.
It’s no secret that some popular U.S. travel destinations, including ours, have been under a bit of a microscope regarding COVID-19 cases and whether or not vacationers should steer clear. Would-be travelers are dependent upon sources of information ranging from traditional news outlets to anecdotal feedback they see on social media, which can make or break a destination’s appeal during a pandemic.
Specific to health and safety precautions, Longwoods International’s recent tracking study of American travelers cited that four in 10 Americans are aware that different destinations have instituted health protocols but are confused about what those are for the destinations they are considering.
Consumers are understandably confused about travel right now, and the responsibility to clearly communicate what’s happening at the local level falls to each individual destination. We have seen it firsthand here in Myrtle Beach, and have in turn implemented an aggressive and transparent approach to keep our prospective visitors informed:
Greater Grand Strand Promise
Community leaders in the Myrtle Beach area, affectionately known to locals as the Grand Strand, worked together to develop this public commitment that businesses and individuals are making to do their part to limit the spread of the virus and protect the safety and well-being of everyone, including residents and visitors. This initiative launched in June, and so far more than 350 businesses have made the promise. Myrtle Beach native and Wheel of Fortune star Vanna White even got in on the effort, creating a video to help get the word out.
Encouraging Responsible Visits
In the spring, Myrtle Beach developed a Healthy Travel Information page on VisitMyrtleBeach.com to guide people to visit responsibly – launching content that included continually updated city-by-city restrictions, videos and other health and safety tips. In early July, many of our local municipalities, including the cities of Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Horry County mandated wearing a face covering while in public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.
Following those mandates, infection rates in the Myrtle Beach area have been on a steady downward trend. In fact, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) announced recently that coronavirus cases have dropped 46 percent in parts of the state with mask mandates compared to those without.
Locally, SCDHEC has partnered with Tidelands Health and other healthcare providers to offer a large-scale testing program in our region. Free testing events are scheduled at convenient sites throughout the area. These events allow anyone to be tested without a physician referral and without symptoms. Large-scale community testing helps identify positive cases before symptoms begin, which allows affected individuals to self-isolate, helping slow the spread.
As you can see, we are taking steps to help ensure residents and visitors can safely enjoy the Myrtle Beach area, but it’s an ongoing – and evolving – challenge. Our businesses and residents are working hard to help offer a safe environment for everyone, and we’re continuing to ask visitors to do their part by visiting responsibly. As we wrap up the summer season and look ahead to fall and beyond, we hope our intentional efforts will continue to pay off and visitors will feel comfortable coming “home” to Myrtle Beach.