Does Labor Day still mark end of season for Grand Strand?

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer and wrap-up to the tourist season. Some Grand Strand tourism-related businesses will now be closed until next spring, while others will shift into a lower gear.

Longtime business owners on the Grand Strand there was a time when Myrtle Beach would practically roll up the streets and close down for the winter.

That is not the case anymore, though some business owners say the Grand Strand hasn't reached the point of being a year-round destination.

The owner of Wild Water & Wheels Water Park in Surfside Beach says this has been a good summer, though visitors kept a tighter grip on their wallets.

"They're not spending in park as much, they're not spending as much on food or on souvenirs or the extra items, but they are coming in," said owner Mark Lazarus.

Lazarus says he has experimented with staying open past Labor Day and it hasn't paid off, but he says the Grand Strand as a whole is doing better at expanding the tourist season.

"With all the theaters that are open and the golf and other things, the shopping that we have," he said.

The owner of the Towers Motel in Myrtle Beach agrees.

His rates may go down and he goes from full staff to half-staff, but it's still not like it used to be in Myrtle Beach after Labor Day.

"Very few people close. The old traditions have kind of changed with the time. We really can't afford to close up anymore," said owner Joe Clemons.

Clemons says most motels that used to close for the season after Labor Day now stay open at least to November, but his prime season is only about 12 weeks during the summer.

Bryan Fulton owns All Star Talent, a local company that provides entertainers on Ocean Boulevard and other tourist spots.

He says the only way he can stay busy after Labor Day is by booking events in bigger cities.

Fulton says Myrtle Beach isn't quite a 12-month destination yet and he gets bored in February and March, but maybe that's OK since the tourist season here is so demanding.

"So it's kind of like a catch 22. You can't wait for the summer, but once Labor Day is over, you're kind of like, we made it, so there is a little sigh of relief."

Hotel occupancy was expected to be about 78 percent this holiday weekend, down around two percent from last year, according to the Center for Resort Tourism at Coastal Carolina University.