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Tourism faces new lower-cost realities

The trend toward shorter vacations during this weak economy could lead to a sea change in S.C. beach rentals.

“People are looking for shorter stays, and we’re having to accommodate them,” said Alan Altman, broker in charge at Pawleys Island Realty.

No, the traditional weekly summer rental isn’t about to disappear. (But rates increasingly are negotiable.) And more and more people are asking whether beach houses are available for long weekends.

In the past, the answer was no. Beach houses rented Saturday to Saturday or Sunday to Sunday. Booking a beach house for a long weekend effectively would kill the rental income from two weeks.

But summer bookings started slowly this year.

Facing multiple open weeks at some rental houses, Altman talked with homeowners to see whether they would consider offering summer weekend rentals.

“Maybe they would be better off to patch together a summer of shorter stays,” he said. “Every business in the United States is going to change (because of the economic recession). “This could become a permanent option we have to offer.”

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SHORTER STAYS

A developing trend is for vacationers to take more long weekend trips and fewer full-week trips. That trend is backed up by the most recent weekly update on Grand Strand lodging by the Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism at Coastal Carolina University.

13.8 percent down: Vacation home rentals for the week of April 25 to May 1, compared to same week last year

12.9 percent down: Hotel, condo and campground occupancy on midweek days during the week of April 26 to May 2, compared to same week last year

4.2 percent up: Hotel, condo and campground occupancy on weekend days during the week of April 26 to May 2, compared to same week last year

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