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Five minutes with Kimberly Hartley, Myrtle Beach

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  •   03-23-2015  9:59 am
Five minutes with Kimberly Hartley, Myrtle Beach

Kimberly Hartley, Visit Myrtle BeachWith Myrtle Beach in the midst of its 54th annual CAN AM Days festival (welcoming Canadian travellers with a series of CAN AM Days Deals and various free events), PAXnews.com sat down with Kimberly Hartley of Visit Myrtle Beach for a quick chat about what’s new at this popular destination for Canadian travellers:

Q: Can you provide data on how many Canadians visited MB in 2014? 

A: The Myrtle Beach area continues to rank as one of the fastest-growing family and vacation destinations in the U.S., attracting more than 16.1 million visitors annually.  Close to 1 million Canadians visit South Carolina, many of whom visit the Myrtle Beach area each year, commonly referred to by locals and visitors as the “Grand Strand.”

Q: What's new in Myrtle Beach in 2015 for Canadian travellers to experience? 

A: Here are some highlights:

T-Rex on display at Dinosaur ExhibitionDinosaurs: The Exhibition

This interactive educational experience will feature 25 animatronic dinosaurs, some life size, as well as programs such as “Dig a Dino” where kids can find real dinosaur fossils, a Dino Movie Room and T-Rex Fun House. This will be the only place in the world where visitors can sit on top of a life-sized T-Rex or Triceratops and ride their way through a ‘Jurassic Park’ of adventure.www.dinosaursmb.com.

Myrtle Beach Sports Complex

After much anticipation, the Myrtle Beach area will have a 9,290-square-meter indoor sports facility that will help expand sports tourism. The 2,000 seat complex, configurable for numerous indoor sports, will include eight basketball courts, 16 volleyball courts, a café and retail area, and a large multi-screen video wall.www.myrtlebeachsportscenter.com.

North Myrtle Beach Bowling Center

With a major renovation underway (scheduled for completion next month), the newly renamed 710 Myrtle Beach promises an updated floor plan to accommodate new entertainment offerings, a modernized menu featuring gourmet burgers, sandwiches and sharable appetizers, local draft and bottled craft beer and – of course – state of the art bowling. For more details, visit their Twitter feed @710MyrtleBeach.

Myrtle Beach International Airport Improvements

Rendering of the completed terminal

Following construction of a $300 million passenger terminal in early 2013, the Myrtle Beach International Airport continues to make an additional $20 million in improvements and renovations to the facility, including a fully functional airline and passenger handling area opening up two additional gates in late 2015. The renovation will be complete with amenities, circulation space and improving the outside façade to blend-in with the look of the new terminal, as well as additional parking space. The target date for the project completion is Dec. 31, 2015.www.flymyrtlebeach.com.

Tupelo Honey Café Comes to Myrtle Beach

Tupelo Honey Café, an Asheville, North Carolina based restaurant serving “made-from-scratch” southern food, will open a new location at the popular Market Common shopping district in early 2015. The 743-square-metre eatery will have 270 seats and a full bar complete with outdoor seating in addition to onsite mixologists creating custom cocktails, as well as a unique selection of craft and local beers.https://tupelohoneycafe.com.

Croissants Bistro & Bakery Cookbook

The first cookbook ever to be published by a restaurant in Myrtle Beach is planned to be published by Gibbs/Smith Publishing in spring 2015. Titled “Bonjour Y’all: Heidi’s Fusion Cooking on the South Carolina Coast” the cookbook is authored by Heidi Vukov, owner of Croissants Bistro and Bakery in Myrtle Beach. The recipes are modeled after the restaurant’s unique fusion of traditional Lowcountry cuisine with French cooking. www.croissants.net.

Carolina Country Music Festival

The first-ever Carolina Country Music Festival (CCMF) is coming to Myrtle Beach on June 5-7, 2015. The inaugural CCMF is an outdoor country music festival that will take place on the boardwalk in downtown Myrtle Beach. The three-day event will host 35 of the industry’s biggest stars, including national recording artists Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, Big & Rich and Hunter Hayes. www.CarolinaCountryMusicFest.com.

Thunder and Light: New Show at Calvin Gilmore Theatre

All That!, the nationally renowned clogging group formally on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, has added a new exclusive show to The Carolina Opry’s live entertainment options. Directed by Jeffrey Gilmore, the show will include exclusive, original choreography by All That!, interviews and background on the group, and the same multi-colored 5-laser show that toured with Pink Floyd and Madonna.www.thecarolinaopry.com/myrtle-beach-shows/thunderandlight.

Homewood Suites Oceanfront Resort & Conference Center

Set to open in spring 2016, the new Homewood Suites Oceanfront Resort & Conference Center is planned at 1805 S. Ocean Blvd., the chain’s first oceanfront property. The 100-suite Homewood will share pools and other amenities with the Hampton Inn Oceanfront next door and will be the one and only, dually branded oceanfront resort hotel for the Hilton in the world. Homewood is also building a 300-seat conference center, three pools, a fire pit, fitness center, a Pilates-aerobics room for women only, an on-site chapel, and a bistro serving sandwiches and snacks.http://homewoodsuites3.hilton.com.

View of Springmaid Beach Resort from above

Springmaid Beach Resort to Become DoubleTree Resort by Hilton

Opened in 1948, Springmaid Beach Resort will now be managed by Hilton Worldwide and will be repositioned as a DoubleTree Resort by Hilton. The renovation will take approximately a year and a half to complete. The resort underwent a $9 million renovation in 2012 and a $19 million overhaul from 2000 to 2002. The property includes a 500-room hotel, conference center, camping facility and pier.www.springmaidbeach.com.  

Buchanan Motels

Virginia-based Buchanan Motels will begin construction on a new hotel, yet to be named, in January 2015. The hotel, located on 17th Avenue in Myrtle Beach, is planned to be 23 floors and include 530 units. The hotel will sit across the street from an indoor water park and parking garage. The construction is expected to be complete by 2017. Hilton Grand Vacations Club

Construction is underway on a new Hilton Grand Vacations Club timeshare resort at the former location of Beach View Apartments in downtown Myrtle Beach on Ocean Boulevard and 22nd Avenue North. Crystal Blue Investment Group is bringing this new hotel to the beach; the project is estimated to cost $41.5 million. The hotel will be 22 stories with 220 units. The project will be completed by July 2015 and will be the first new lodging establishment to be built in Myrtle Beach since 2009.www.hiltongrandvacations.com.Q: How can Canadians access Myrtle Beach this year?

A: Porter Airlines’ service from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) to Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) is running until May 18. In March and April there will be four weekly flights; in late April/May there be flights two days per week. Travel agents can book packages with air and accommodations with Porter Escapes. 

WestJet resumed service from Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ) to MYR on March 5 until Oct. 22. Flights will be two days per week on Thursdays and Sundays.  WestJet Vacations offers full packages with air and accommodations. 

Spirit Airlines offers Canadians cross-border options with seasonal non-stop service to Myrtle Beach each spring, summer and fall from Niagara Falls, NY, Plattsburgh, NY and Detroit, MI.  For complete schedules visit www.spirit.com

Q: What is the best time to visit MB and why? 

A: Spring and Fall is the ideal time to visit the Myrtle Beach area, due to value and affordability during the shoulder seasons which include March, April, May, September, October and November. During this time, travellers can take advantage of lower accommodation rates, less crowds, warm semi-tropical temperatures similar to Canadian summer weather, special deals and discounts offered “out-of-season”, and affordable prices for long stays in many vacation rentals and beach houses – many of which pay commission!   During the winter months of December, January and February, it is the low season, with very affordable rates – a great time to book for long stay rentals to get away from the Canadian winter!  The peak season is June, July and August. 

Q: Describe the tour operator options available for travel advisors to promote MB to their clients this year?

A: ITC packages are available to the Myrtle Beach area through Porter Escapes and WestJet Vacations.  FIT options are available to book through Alio, Holiday House by TravelBrands, Huntington Travel, Royal Scenic, and Simply Escape.  Golf packages can be booked with Merit/Ultimate Golf Vacations, Golf Resort World, Golf the World Vacations and Gryphon Golf Vacations, which are all based in Canada.  Travel agents can also book stay & play golf packages, tee times and golf-around packages with Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday which promote programs sold by their members, many of whom pay commission (www.golfholiday.com).  For long stay commissionable reservations in a condo resort or beach house, a list of Vacation Rental companies are found on the website or by contacting the Canadian office – Kimberly Hartley, Canadian Account Manager, kimberly.hartley@VisitMyrtleBeach.com.

Q: In addition to the new developments listed above, what are five unique events/attractions that Canadians can plan their visit around?

A: Canadian American Days – March 14 to 22, 2015 – a time to celebrate 54 years of welcoming Canadian visitors during a 10 day festival offering CAN AM Days Deals, with special fun activities taking place along the Grand Strand, with a variety of free events, including band concerts, a St. Patrick’s Day Parade and dance, golf tournaments and dining experiences, all complimented by discounts on attractions and golf, showcasing true Southern hospitality.  http://www.visitmyrtlebeach.com/things-to-do/events/can-am-days/

Myrtle Beach Boardwalk & Promenade – one of the top 10 Best Boardwalks in the U.S. according to National Geographic, stretching 2 km from 1st Ave. N. to 15th Ave. N. along the coastline, with restaurants, shops, rest areas, the new SkyWheel attraction, arcades, and a stunning walkway – one of the city’s hub of activities and festivals!

Ripley’s Aquarium – This year, a major expansion will include a larger lobby and three new exhibits with an additional 557 square-metres added to the facility and an upgraded ticket area and plaza with completion by June 2015.  A slime exhibit, a jellyfish exhibit and a new glass bottomed boat ride in the reef exhibit are part of the expansion. The aquarium also recently welcomed two rare baby sea dragons and a spotted eagle ray pup - the first of its kind in South Carolina.www.ripleysaquariums.com/myrtlebeach/

Brookgreen Garden’s – named one of the Top 10 Public Gardens in the U.S. by TripAdvisor, a national historic landmark since 1931 with beautiful gardens showcasing world-renowned sculptures, the only accredited zoo on the coast of the Carolinas, boat rides and creek tours, a butterfly house, an Enchanted Storybook Forest, majestic oaks, educational tours, and so much more, all with the mission to preserve and display outdoor American sculpture works, regional plants, animals and history.   www.brookgreen.org

A visit to one or more of the eight live entertainment theatres found in the Myrtle Beach area, including two dinner shows – Medieval Times Dinner Show and Pirates Voyages Dinner Show (Dolly Parton’s theatre) – plus live entertainment theatres, concerts and comedy clubs are available nightly at the Carolina Opry, Alabama Theatre, Palace Theatre, Legends in Concert, House of Blues, and Big Laughs Theatre Wild 4 Hypnosis Comedy Show.  http://www.visitmyrtlebeach.com/things-to-do/shows/

Myrtle Beach SkyWheel at Night

Special events take place throughout the year including Beach, Boogie BBQ over Labor Day weekend, the 68th Annual Plantation Tours, 32nd Annual National Shag Dancing Championship Finals, Carolina County Music Festival, Coastal Uncorked, 43rd Annual Art in the Park…just to name a few of the hundreds of special events, which can be found at www.grandstrandevents.com

Visit our Top 10 List to help get the best out of a visit to the Myrtle Beach area:

http://www.visitmyrtlebeach.com/things-to-do/top-10/

Q: Are you offering any special incentives for the travel trade to sell the Myrtle Beach area?

We are hosting an updated version of the MBA Specialist Program, which is an online educational course which enables all travel agents who successfully complete the program to be entered to win a trip for two sponsored by WestJet and the Hampton Inn & Suites Oceanfront Resort for 8 days/7 nights plus local area attractions and live shows. The trip prize will be drawn July 1 and valid for travel until Oct. 22. We do not offer any specific incentives to book the destination, but we guarantee genuine Southern Hospitality, affordable prices, great value and a huge variety of things to see and do, with amazing accommodations – many of which offer commissions!!

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