Grand Strand occupancy rates for the week ending Oct. 4, 2008, the week of the annual Harley-Davidson "Pilgrimage" Rally, fell 21.4 percent in comparison to last year's rally week, according to data compiled by the Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism at Coastal Carolina University.
"This decline in occupancy could result from many factors, including economic issues such as the price of transportation, the declining level of disposable income, consumer pessimism and, perhaps to some extent, the negative publicity stemming from the ordinances passed by the Myrtle Beach City Council recently," said Taylor Damonte, director of the center. "It is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify how much of the decline is attributable to any one factor."
There has been a general softening of the occupancy rate during the fall season, according to Damonte. From Aug. 24 through Sept. 27 (excluding the week of Tropical Storm Hanna), occupancy was down 7.5 percent. In two of those weekends the average occupancy was down 13 percent. Because of this, business researchers believe that approximately 30 to 60 percent of the decline in occupancy during the Fall Bike Rally was due to the decline in the systemic level of demand for visitation along the Grand Strand during the early fall this year.
"Determining which factors influenced the remaining portion of the decline, and the extent of each factor's contribution, would be mere speculation," said Gary Loftus, director of Coastal Carolina University's BB&T Center for Economic and Community Development.