People evacuating the South Carolina coast ahead of Hurricane Florence might have better chances of finding a room in another state.
Most Columbia rooms were already booked with fans rolling in for the University of South Carolina football game against Marshall University, and a major equestrian event in western North Carolina is sucking up rooms in Greenville and Spartanburg.
“I would like to point people to rooms in our state, but most of them are in evacuation areas along the coast and in Greenville and Columbia,” said John Durst, president and CEO of the S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association. “So evacuees are more likely to find reservations in Charlotte and Augusta.”
However, in Columbia, the occupancy level is fluid, said Andrew Lucas, general manager of the Inn at USC and president of the Columbia chapter of the association. Many football fans and tourists are canceling their reservations for the weekend; at the same time, evacuees are calling to book rooms.
“I left for lunch, and we sold 20 percent of the hotel,” he said.
Lucas said that because of the fluctuation, folks should call hotels directly.
“The websites won’t be able to keep up,” he said.
A number of hotels across the Columbia area, from Lexington to Camden, said they already had few or no available rooms through the weekend.
Several reported a rush of reservations coming in past day or two.
“We’re all sold out,” said Keenan Bennett, assistant general manager of the Days Inn by Wyndham on Bush River Road in Columbia.
Bennett said the hotel is making a waiting list of people seeking reservations and is referring people to other hotels in the area.
Not all hotels had filled up yet, though. Out of nine hotels contacted by The State newspaper, one had “a few” rooms left: the Comfort Suites in Lexington. But that likely will change soon, as Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered a mandatory evacuation of the coast beginning at noon Tuesday.
“History tells us that bookings start once the declaration comes out,” Lucas said.
“The Midlands is beginning to max out,” he said. “The best way to do it is go ahead and make that direct contact.”