August 12, 2008

Myrtle Beach Reduces Landing Fees to Retain and Recruit Air Service Amid Economic Downturn

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and Horry County, South Carolina, in an effort to protect current domestic air service to the destination, have announced the reduction of landing fees for a 9-month period, effective September 1, 2008, with an option to continue. To attract international air service, landing fees will be eliminated for all non-U.S. routes.

Landing fees at the Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) will be reduced from $1.97 to $.50 per 1,000 lbs. landing weight, a 75 percent reduction, to help retain current airlines servicing Myrtle Beach, and to attract new carriers. Myrtle Beach has enjoyed growth as a leisure and business destination for visitors from around North America. Air service to Myrtle Beach increased 17 percent in 2007.

To encourage new non-stop, round trip service between MYR and any airport currently not serving the destination, Myrtle Beach will offer carriers the option of paying $2 per available seat for common use terminal area fees and security fees, rather than the rate formula contained in the standard air carrier agreement. This plan allows an airline to calculate the not-to-exceed amount of fees paid to the airport in advance, rather than having the fee depend on the airline's traffic, as well as overall airport traffic. Both formulas will be calculated and carriers will be billed the lower of the two amounts.

Further, the airport will waive all landing fees and terminal rents for any scheduled non-stop round trip service between MYR and any international destination, including Canada, where MYR is not currently serviced with scheduled non-stop round trip service.

"This action clearly shows that Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) intends to continue to partner with the airline industry to assure a win-win relationship for all concerned. It will make Myrtle Beach an even more attractive destination for airlines," said Brad Dean, president and chief executive officer of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Air travel to the Myrtle Beach area was down 1 percent for the first six months of 2008; and 2007 set a record for air travel to the destination, he said. However, at least one carrier has announced fall and winter service cuts that would resume in the spring.

"Direct routes are important because they are a big factor for some vacationers, especially golfers who tend to spend more than the average vacationer, in choosing between Myrtle Beach and other destinations," according to Mike Boyd, president of The Boyd Group, an aviation consultant and forecaster.

The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce has led the effort to raise private funds that are matched 50 percent by state government for tourism promotion. In 2007, those private funds exceeded $6 million and are estimated to exceed $8 million this year.

The Chamber estimates that 6 percent of travelers fly to Myrtle Beach based on 2006 visitor research. Some 14 million travelers visit the destination each year.

The Myrtle Beach area, popularly known as the Grand Strand, stretches from Little River to Pawleys Island, comprising 12 distinct cities along the South Carolina coast. Home to world-class golf, 60 miles of sandy beaches, an assortment of entertainment and family attractions and Southern hospitality, the Myrtle Beach area presents the quintessential vacation experience.