Grand Strand tourism spending higher than ever before

Tourism promotion spending on the Grand Strand is now more than quadruple the amount spent compared to just a decade ago.

Officials are spending roughly $30 million on tourism marketing in 2014, with more than $16 million of that to be spent on television ads.

At Monday's tourism marketing update at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, business owners got an inside look at what visitors might be looking for in a vacation ad. Tourism officials explained how marketers use psychological cues to target visitors.

"They tell us that what they're wanting to see is blue sky, blue water, white sand and the beach. They want to reinforce that aspirational element of coming to visit the beach," explained Susan Phillips, marketing director for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

Phillips said tourism officials spent 18 months with focus groups in many of the area's target markets. "They want to think that it's their beach, they don't want to see the high rises. They want to feel that it's their special, secret getaway just for their family."

The goal is to target markets with direct flights to Myrtle Beach like Lexington, Kentucky or Syracuse, New York with the hopes of bringing lots of first-time visitors.

Steve Chapman, managing partner at Island Vista Resort, said he's depending on those first time visitors.

"25, 30 to half of your visitor base a year have to be new guests, somebody that's never stayed with you before so it's very important," Chapman explained.

The Chamber's marketing budget comes from a combination of private donations, public funds and a matching grant from the state.