Winter is traditionally the slowest part of the year for the coastal town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But there is one group of tourists that is still happy to visit the Grand Strand in the cooler winter months: Canadians.
Myrtle Beach relies on Canadian travelers in the colder months of the year when unemployment rates can be double what they are in the busy summer months. The area relies on our Northern visitors to the point where marketers in Harry County specifically reach out to residents of Ontario. They hope to draw as many families and snowbirds to the coast in March, when Canadian schools have their spring break vacation.
Budget-conscious Canadian tourists visit Myrtle Beach in the winter because hotels, condos and vacation rentals are much cheaper during the off-season. Condo-hotel units will often rent by the month, allowing tourists to enjoy an extended vacation.
While Myrtle Beach may not offer the same warm climate that South Florida offers, the relatively mild temperatures attract tourists from the northern country.
But over the last few years, the number of Canadian visitors in the cold winter months has been dwindling. Changing vacation habits and a decline in Canada’s currency against the American dollar has caused some northern visitors to change their plans.
The Canadian dollars is now trading at around 80 cents to the American dollar. The exchange rate has been unfavorable for the last four years, which has hurt travel, tourism and local businesses in Myrtle Beach.
Myrtle Beach businesses used to accept Canadian dollars the same as American dollars when the two currencies were close in value. That custom has fallen to the wayside, as the Canadian dollar’s value has dipped in recent years.
To help attract tourists, local businesses are now offering a discount based on the disparity between the two currencies. In exchange, guests agree to stay a certain number of days. The discount is not available in busy summer months from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
In the past, local marketers turned to sports tourism to draw visitors during the quiet months after Labor Day. But promoters are turning away from Can-Am Days, which once took over the town and drew in many visitors. Myrtle Beach hosted Canadian-American festivals in March coordinated with Ontario’s traditional school break.
The city had been hosting the event for more than five decades.
Can-Am Days are still held, but it has dwindled down to just a few stray events around town. Stores, like Can-Am Gifts have now changed their names.
About $420,000 will be spent on marketing that targets Canadian visitors, a small fraction of the $20 million marketing budget.
Still, the city has been steadily increasing its marketing to Canadian visitors over the years. New flight routes between Myrtle Beach and Canada have also helped boost tourism. The goal now is to reach out to other regions of Canada that don’t normally visit the Grand Strand, such as Quebec.
While the tourism industry is going through a shift right now with its Canadian visitors, local businesses still value and respect their northern visitors.