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      Easter tourism up, bike rally will soon follow

      Along the Grand Strand there are hundreds of hotels, condos, and houses for tourists to stay in while here on vacation.

      Dr. Taylor Damonte with the Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism says from Sunday to Thursday of last week - the week before Easter weekend - occupancy rates were at 87% and prices were up 9% from the same time last year.

      But last year, Easter was earlier and only 46% of the rooms were full during that same time frame leading into the holiday.

      "Easter weekend travel doesn't always mean good summer travel it is good news that people are traveling so that's sort of what we're focusing on," said Nora Hembree with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. Hembree adds that they are keeping an eye on gas prices as the summer approaches.

      One thing that may be in the tourism industry's favor, "when you build attractions and advertise that's going to have a positive impact," added Damonte.

      The crowd may have thinned out today, but early indications show the Harley Rally will be considerably bigger than the previous two years.

      Jamie Keats, owner of Jamin Leather says now that the helmet law in Myrtle Beach is overturned and the economy has improved, "a lot of them are coming down, they're really excited they're happy about the helmet law they want to enjoy the beach like they always did in the past. We're seeing a lot of positive response and looking forward to seeing them down."

      To say the bikers are controversial is an understatement.

      While some say they're too rowdy, others welcome them and their money. They generate millions of dollars of revenue for businesses.

      "It is our Christmas week the Spring Rally is, not to mention the Fall Rally - they're both very strong rallies for us they actually bring sometimes a better return than Christmas does," said Keats. "Both rallies are extremely important to the economy mainly because they're off season rallies they're meant to bring in tourism that wouldn't normally come the rest of the year."

      Damonte is forecasting a two to four percent increase in occupancy this summer.

      Be sure to mark your calendars. The Spring Rally is scheduled for May 12 through May 22.

      Rally info links:

      Cruisin the Coast Spring Beach Rally

      Myrtle Beach event guide