MYRTLE BEACH -- Guests at some North Myrtle Beach area lodging properties could pay more starting next year to raise money to buy advertisements promoting the beach destination.
The North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, which proposed the $1 a night fee as part of its five-year growth strategy, is working out the details and recruiting lodging properties to participate.
Guests to the properties participating will pay $1 a night that will go toward advertisements that the Marketing Co-op, a chamber committee made up of representatives of the participating properties, will decide how to spend.
The fee will start in February, said Marc Jordan, president of the North Myrtle Beach chamber. About six properties have expressed interest in participating, including Elliott Realty and Myrtle Beach Seaside Resort, he said, adding he plans to recruit more businesses.
Jordan estimates the fee could bring in as much as $500,000 for out-of-market advertising. The money likely would be spent on Internet ads because that's a popular way to reach potential visitors these days, but it also could go for TV spots in big markets the chamber can't afford to advertise in with its current $1 million annual marketing budget, Jordan said.
The $1 a night charge isn't likely to turn off tourists already booking rooms because it's a small amount, Jordan said. He compared it to the sales and accommodations taxes visitors already pay. Still, consumers nationwide have been reluctant to pay more fees during the down economy.
"People pay these fees all the time," Jordan said. "A dollar probably isn't going to make a big difference to them. It makes a big difference to us."
The nightly fee wouldn't be new along the Grand Strand. Several years ago, before the controversial 1-cent sales tax for tourism in Myrtle Beach, a group of Myrtle Beach hoteliers used the same strategy, creating a nightly room charge to raise money to market the destination.
Jordan envisions taking this concept to restaurants by adding $1 to a table's bill. But for now, he's focusing on getting the lodging fee going.
The fee is part of the chamber's five-year growth strategy, dubbed "Building North Myrtle Beach," which also includes plans to lure a major attraction to the north end and diversify the beach's economy.