Roads, hotel rooms will be busy this Memorial Day weekend

Tourists and bikers are starting to arrive on the Grand Strand for what looks to be a busy Memorial Day Weekend.

After a cool and rainy spring, tourists appear more than ready for sunnier skies.

Myrtle Beach hotel owner Steve Chapman says his rooms will be filled, but Memorial Day weekend tourism is still not all the way back to where it was before the recession.

"I wouldn't say it's as strong as it was during the peak years. We were full quite a ways out in those busiest years and right now, we're not," Chapman said.

Chapman says his downtown motel, which gets more biker business, has been fully booked for a couple of weeks.

His other property, Island Vista Resort caters more to families and has been slower to fill.

Overall, hotel occupancy on the Grand Strand this weekend is expected to be about the same or maybe a little better than last Memorial Day.

"We're looking at probably 75 percent for Friday night, 90 percent or better for Saturday night and perhaps 80 percent or more for Sunday night," said Taylor Damonte of the Brittain Center for Resort Tourism at Coastal Carolina University.

AAA Motor Club says gas prices in South Carolina are the lowest in the country, about 10 cents per gallon cheaper than last Memorial Day weekend.

AAA says more than 443,000 people will hit the road in the state this weekend, up about 1.5 percent from last year.

But Damonte says gas prices don't have as much of an impact on travel as the weather, which is expected to be good this weekend, helping tourism rebound after a weak spring.

"So that suggests that with good weather, we'll have good visitation along the Grand Strand this summer," he said.

Myrtle Beach has been busy promoting its Military Appreciation days. Chapman says that's a good thing for the holiday weekend, to help attract more families, the target audience for the Grand Strand.