Charleston tourism ambassadors, take note: you could learn a lot from Myrtle Beach.
Study up on their response to the tragic shootings over the weekend that left three dead and seven injured there. And should such horrible things ever happen here, do exactly the opposite.
Because those folks on the Grand Strand look like a bunch of insensitive bozos.
Late Saturday night, three Lowcountry residents were gunned down at the Bermuda Sands hotel on the Myrtle Beach strip. At the time, the police were in the hotel parking lot tending to a man shot in another incident.
Which is beyond ridiculous.
But it gets worse. Before the Memorial Day weekend was over, at least a half-dozen others were injured in errant gunplay.
Apparently it goes without saying that this loss of life is terrible and abhorrent because you didn't hear much of that in the response from local officials.
Instead, Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean issued a statement lamenting the fact that "no amount of publicity and promotion will counter the bad publicity generated this weekend."
Here's a question: When did the folks in Myrtle Beach hire the mayor from "Jaws" to be their spokesman?
Myrtle Beach officials have since made a big deal out of the fact that there were only two homicide deaths in the town last year.
That's commendable. And it's all part of the message that Myrtle Beach is safe for Ohioans and West Virginians bearing tourist dollars.
Except that Dean bemoans the fact that "(t)he senseless acts of criminals and unruly visitors have once again marred what should have been a stellar weekend."
Don't worry, he's not suggesting Broadway at the Beach is a shooting gallery or you're going to get stuck up while playing gorilla golf. That was a dig at Atlantic Beach BikeFest. Residents are going to use the numerous acts of senseless violence there over the weekend to try to shut down what is casually called "black bike week."
Because of course this is all about race, and has nothing to do with the culture in a state that believes guns and alcohol are a perfectly acceptable mix.
Atlantic Beach officials claim that the violence in Myrtle Beach had nothing to do with their annual event. Well, good luck with that spin.
The fact is, a lot of people in Myrtle Beach did a lot of things wrong this past week.
One couple from North Carolina was vacationing at the Bermuda Sands, and they were understandably distraught when someone fell dead outside the door to their hotel room.
But when they informed the front desk that, due to this trauma, they would check out early, the hotel refused to refund their money for the remaining nights they had booked.
That's really great guest services right there.
Guess they knew they'd have a hard time re-booking that room, what with all the police tape strung around.
On Tuesday, TripAdvisor named Myrtle Beach the "top tourism destination of the summer," and you can be sure Grand Strand officials are worried about losing that title.
It probably is not a good slogan to say "Myrtle Beach: Your Odds of Being Shot are just 7 in 14 million!"
Dean was obviously speaking to Chamber members rather than concerned citizens when he said that his office is working with "promotional partners to do what little we can to counter the negative publicity and assure those visitors planning a trip to the Myrtle Beach area that our community values their safety."
Glad they have their priorities in order. Funny, there was nothing about "valuing" the lives of said tourists should they get shot. Then they become little more than a PR annoyance.
It's sort of like the mayor of Amity said in "Jaws," while refusing to warn tourists of the danger lurking just off the beach. You've got to manage the message.
"You yell barracuda, everybody says, 'Huh? What? You yell shark, and we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July."
And Myrtle Beach's response, just like the mayor in "Jaws," sounds very much like a seasonal town much more concerned with salvaging its summer than mourning casualties.
Let's hope that if, God forbid, this ever happens in Charleston, we have our priorities in line a little better.
You would hope most people would be more concerned with the loss of life than the loss of room bookings.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org
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