Have you ever considered what the Grand Strand would be like if there were no tourists? If those 18.6 million visitors went somewhere else, how would our community feel and function? For most of us, it’s tempting to joyfully ponder the benefits of fewer tourists while we sit in traffic on Highway 501 or wait in line at our favorite restaurant. But consider our community without tourists?
Removing a $7 billion industry would change our area in many ways. To get a sense of what that would be like, we could draw comparisons to nearby communities, such as Dillon, Marion or Marlboro counties. Or we could draw comparisons to similarly-sized communities, like Aiken, York or Anderson counties. What types of jobs would be here? How well would our school district perform? How many residents would live here? Would we have a technical college and a university? How many restaurants, golf courses, live theatres and shopping malls would we have?
See Below for Analyses on How Tourism Impacts These Areas:
Grand Strand residents enjoy some of the lowest property tax rates in the nation. In fact, Horry & Georgetown millage rates are the two lowest millage assessments in the entire state, less than half the state average.
Local municipalities’ millage rates also tend to be lower than comparative communities. And they’re getting lower. In May 2009, the City of Myrtle Beach passed a tourism development fee that will be used to reduce owner-occupied property taxes by 90%.
Many local residents were visitors first, and ultimately decided to enjoy the quality of life for more than one or two weeks a year. In fact, the tourism industry is an essential component of our local economy that feeds other industries, including real estate and development.
Consider the population shift in the past two decades in our local communities, as compared to nearby counties that share the same limited infrastructure. Between 2000 and 2014, the combined population of Horry and Georgetown counties increased by a total of 107,179 residents. By comparison, the combined population of Marlboro, Williamsburg & Marion counties declined by 5,949 residents. The primary difference between these six counties is the presence of tourism in Horry and Georgetown counties, and the difference in population growth is undeniable.
In 2016, the Grand Strand was home to more than 1,800 restaurants. In fact, the area boasts one of the highest restaurants-per-capita measurements in the nation. Historically, the Grand Strand measures at 5.1 restaurants per 1,000 residents, nearly twice the state and three times the national average. Better yet, the assortment of restaurants is diverse enough to please every palette and every budget.
If the Grand Strand were home to an average number of restaurants, that would mean 700-800 fewer restaurants. If there were no tourists, would your favorite eatery still be here?
The Grand Strand is home to approximately 90 championship golf courses. Often referred to as the Seaside Golf Capital of the World, residents have their pick from some of the finest courses in the nation. Amongst many other accolades, one that certainly stands out is the 2006 designation by Golf Digest as the #1 Golf-Home Community in America.
But if there were no tourists, how many golf courses would we have? The Grand Strand currently has approximately 90 golf courses, nearly 3x the state average and 8x the national average. If the Grand Strand were home to the average number of golf courses, there would be between 75 and 85 fewer golf courses here today.
The Grand Strand is home to approximately 2,000 retail establishments, including two outlet parks, three outdoor retail/dining/entertainment complexes and two malls. The area also boasts 13 Wal-Marts and a large number of retail strips plus a wide variety of specialty retail outlets. The number of Grand Strand retail establishments is roughly 40% higher than the state average and close to 45% higher the national average. If the Grand Strand were home to an average number of retail outlets, there would be between 600-750 fewer retail businesses open today. If there were no tourists, where would you shop?