North Myrtle Beach residents gave a resounding NO to the TDF (1% tourist tax) last night.
The news was immediately met by wide applause and approval from millions of tourists across the Northeastern and Southeastern U.S.A.
The TDF is a 1% fee charged to every tourist who makes a purchase on rooms, retail, and at restaurants within the city limits of Myrtle Beach. The TDF law demands that the city use an antiquated method of advertising by the city’s Designated Marketing Organization (DMO). The TDF has generated over $200 million since it was established in 2009. The tax generates over $20 million for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce even on bad years. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber is the city’s designated DMO.
The tax was brought to the S.C. General Assembly by Horry County District 107 Representative Alan Clemmons in 2009. In 2016, he and a local delegation of area elected state officials, brought the TDF back to the floor for renewal. The bill was vetoed by then Governor Nikki Haley. Her veto, however, was overridden by the S.C. legislature. S.C. is controlled by the legislative branch of government. The governor has extremely limited power. As such, S.C. Senator Luke Rankin and S.C. Representative Alan Clemmons are among the most powerful men in the state. Clemmons is up for re-election this year and is currently running unopposed. His campaign coffers are filled with over $400,000 in funds. He is favored among the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber’s four political action committees, namely the Grand Strand Business Alliance.
SO WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE TAX?
This year, the Club For Growth, among the nation’s most influential conservative voices, rates Mr. Clemmons’ conservative voting record a “D”. His Horry County elected contemporaries, who also support the TDF tax are rated: Luke Rankin- F, Gregory Duckwork- D-, Jeff Johnson- D-, Heather Ammons Crawford- F, Russell Fry- F, Kevin Hardee- F-. Greg Hembre of North Myrtle Beach is the only Horry County Republican with a passing grade, B+. Residents say the tax has actually created an environment where elected officials are more accountable to the wishes of Dean and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce than they are to residents at large.
North Myrtle Beach residents have witnessed the deterioration of both the name and influence of the city of Myrtle Beach, while their city has thrived. The same can be said for the areas of Carolina Forest, Surfside, Pawleys Island, and the area connecting Highway 17 Bypass with Highway 544.
MIS-SPENT OPPORTUNITIES – COULD THE TDF WORK?
Many say yes. If the tax was used to work in the realities of the marketing world we all live in today. Last week a viral video was put up by a man at a McDonalds who bought a panhandler lunch. Avoiding the blame of who did what and when, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber sat idly by as the video circumnavigated all social reaching 92 million people. Our DMO which gets paid over $32 million in total taxes has no rapid response social media strategy.
The facts, however, showed the restaurant called MBPD before the meal was ordered. MBPD and area restaurants have a history of “run ins” with the man. The man is actually not homeless. And a local sociologist at Coastal Carolina, Dr. Stephanie Southworth, told MyrtleBeachSC.com that food was not his primary need nor any area homeless person’s primary need. Residents informed MyrtleBeachSC.com that the man had been “fund raising” at that location for some time for purposes other than buying food.
Had the Myrtle Beach Chamber (MBACC) wished to use TDF dollars to inform tourists, these facts would have been out immediately. The model employed by MBACC is actually a private fund revenue generator for the not for profit. MBACC purchases ads in out of market locations with TDF dollars and then charges local hotels, restaurants, and retail to advertise on the not for profit’s website.
Brand experts tell MyrtleBeachSC.com, the TDF could work if MBACC abandoned their profit minded strategies. If MBACC were willing to put a rapid response video team and an ongoing brand story team in place, Myrtle Beach would thrive. A brand story team helps, informs, and educates tourists.
The TDF is controversial and clearly not a direction North Myrtle Beach residents wish to take.
The vote last night should give the sponsors of the legislation, including Representative Clemmons and Senator Rankin, pause.
Will Myrtle Beach City Council allow Myrtle Beach residents to vote on the TDF in a voter referendum? Only time will tell.