Beach towns look to summer season amid coronavirus uncertainty

Posted at 12:25 PM, Apr 28, 2020

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Along the shoreline of Myrtle Beach, Darrell Kimrey paints and waits.

“It's very slow – it’s troubling,” he said.

The store – Splish and Splash Airbrush – sits just across the street from the Myrtle Beach boardwalk. South Carolina’s governor recently allowed some non-essential businesses, like that one, to reopen. Despite that, though, customers are nowhere to be found.

“I mean, you see the streets,” Kimrey said. “There's nobody out here.”

Businesses in coastal communities that rely on beach tourism know they have a limited window where they can make enough money to get through the year. Now, the coronavirus has narrowed that window even more.

“We have a very strong spring season that was decimated this year,” said Karen Riordan, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau.

She said the Myrtle Beach area saw a record-breaking 20 million visitors last year.
This year won’t even come close.

“It's going to be slow and our business community, I think, is trying to be very patient and understand that,” she said.

Still, Riordan said they, and those in other coastal communities, may have reasons to be optimistic about the summer – reasons backed up by data.

“Research that tells us that the safest place people feel right now, from a travel standpoint, is their car – and we are a 92% drive market,” Riordan said. “So, the vast majority of the people who come to vacation in Myrtle Beach are coming via their car with their families.”

Whether they feel safe enough to come out remains to be seen. More than a week after reopening, Darrell Kimrey waits for anyone still willing to make the trek to the shore.

“Support your local businesses. I mean, we're trying to make it,” he said. “We're trying to make something of ourselves for everyone. We want to give out a good product. We can't do that without the people.”

People who will have the ultimate say, on whether or not to return.