Lower gas prices combined with a beautiful weather forecast for the long Memorial Day weekend has state tourism officials in a sunny mood.
“Gas prices remain low,” said Duane Parrish, director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. “The economy continues to grow. It looks like a great weekend for weather. I expect it to be a big Memorial Day. It may be the best Memorial Day weekend ever.”
The average price for a gallon of gas today in South Carolina is $2.04, which is 1 cent less than last year. As a result, AAA predicted automobile travel will grow by 2.4 percent this weekend.
AAA Carolinas projects an estimated 565,000 South Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend, the highest Memorial Day travel volume since 2005 and an increase of 2.7 percent from last year.
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“Carolinians are ... ready to travel thanks to the positive growth seen throughout the travel industry this year,” Dave Parsons, AAA Carolinas President and CEO, said in a news release.
The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday to Monday.
The Weather Channel predicts balmy weather for Myrtle Beach once the rains clear on Thursday.
Friday and Saturday will be perfect — with temperatures in the mid to high 80s during the day and no chance of rain.
Sunday the clouds will roll in, but with only a 20 percent chance of rain. Monday – Memorial Day — will bring thunderstorms.
In the mountains, the channel predicts a 20 percent chance of rain for the whole weekend with highs in the mid to upper 80s.
Once at their destination, travelers will find a slightly higher rate for their hotel and motel rooms.
PRT statistics show the average price of a room statewide in March – the most recent month data was available – rose to $108.03 from $103.04 last year.
Hotel occupancy in the Palmetto State is up to 70.3 percent in March from 68.5 percent a year ago.
“Typically, when gas prices dip, our occupancies increase, and that is what we expect this year,” said Bob Barenburg, board chairman of the S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association and managing partner of the Kingston Resorts, Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort and Embassy Suites Myrtle Beach Oceanfront.
He said rates at Myrtle Beach are up about 2 percent to 3 percent over last year, with hotel occupancy expected to grow 5 percent to 7 percent year-over-year in Myrtle Beach.
“You might recall that last Memorial Day Weekend we had Tropical Storm Bonnie hit the Myrtle Beach area,” he said. “This year is expected to be blue skies and warm temperatures.”