In 2015, as we approach the Summer of year six of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s 1% tourist tax initiative, I believe this is a great moment to pause and determine how effective the tax has been over its lifespan. For the record, we did not speak with Brad Dean, MBACC President, before posting this article.
The 1% tax, commonly known as the Myrtle Beach tourist tax, was put into effect to grow tourism for the Myrtle Beach area. This is how the tax was “sold” to the community when it was initiated by MBACC and a few, key hotel owners in 2009. It has been in place since 2009 collecting $180 million in taxes on every visitor to the city of Myrtle Beach on purchases that range from groceries, to dining out, to room rentals. Revenues from the tax for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC) gross around $30 million every year. In 2007, two years before the tax came into being, according to records from MBACC, Myrtle Beach did 15.2 million tourists. In 2012, the last year I could find on file from MBACC, Myrtle Beach did 15.2 million tourists. In 2010 we did 14 million tourists and in 2011 we did 14.5 million in tourists. Projections for 2015 are that numbers will be down by as many as 800,000 tourists falling to within the 14 million range.
In 2015, largely because of a Summer long beach tent ban, forecasters are predicting that decline. Over 32,000 tourist families complained online over a 3 day stretch in 2014, and a protest website was launched by Myrtle Beach tourists.
Clearly, from the numbers, the true intent of the tourist tax was not to grow tourism. What was the true purpose of the tax then?
In 2008, several insider hotel owners worked tirelessly with MBACC, city politicians, State of SC politicians, and county politicians to get the local option sales tax passed. The stated purpose was to grow tourism for Myrtle Beach. Since no growth has occurred, what could have been the true mission?
MBACC collects 1% from all hotels in our city, but also charges a pay per click fee to be on the MBACC destination website, VISITMYRTLEBEACH.com. Those who can’t afford the fee late in season are kicked off of the website. Meanwhile the tax dollars keep flowing in promoting insiders who set the system up. Those insiders are lead by Brittain Resort Management, of whom, David Brittain was Board President when the tourist tax was initiated. One of the fastest growing hotel groups since the tourist tax was passed has been Brittain Resort Management.
“If a hotel group wanted to dry up their smaller hotel competitors’ revenues so as to purchase those hotels at a big discount, I can think of no better system than this,” said David Hucks, of Myrtle Beach Hotels.
Heavy handed actions of MBACC that include a citywide tent ban for vacationing tourists, suing a local property owner for his privately held trademark, and picking a fight with Memorial Day Black Bikers have only worked to drive off more tourists. Forecasters estimate that the bad press from these actions will drive away more than 800,000 tourists this Summer season.
How does that translate? More hotels will be on the market for sale at a discount this Fall. Who would be a primary potential buyer? – Brittain Resort Management, of course.
Has the tourist tax been effective? Ask any local and they will tell you it has served its purpose well.