Spring tourism forecast promising

Millions visit the Myrtle Beach area every year and the bulk of that traffic is during the summer. But this month people are drawn to the Grand Strand because of Valentine's Day, President's Day weekend, and the Myrtle Beach Marathon.

"Warm weather and I love the ocean," is what keeps bringing back snowbird Jerry Madden year after year from Ohio.

Even in the middle of winter it's not uncommon for it to feel more like spring.

Along the boardwalk in Myrtle Beach a small crowd is out walking around and taking in the scenery.

Madden is one of many who consider it a tradition to visit the Grand Strand.

The key now is getting others to come during the off season in greater numbers.

Anywhere from 8-12% more people are expected to head to the coast compared to last year from now until April, that's according to Dr. Taylor Damonte with the Brittain Center for Resort Tourism at Coastal Carolina University.

That's promising news for Boardwalk Coffee owner Rick Sarver. He opened his business Memorial Day weekend of last year.

"Just from all the indications that we've heard through all the meetings even I've attended all the numbers are way up. This boardwalk has produced a lot of positive energy," said Sarver.

Another sign the off season is picking up, some businesses stayed opened longer this year.

And there are certain perks the Grand Strand offers during the cooler months.

"It seems like there's not as much traffic and the places are open you don't have to wait in line we've been down here where you have to wait in line to do everything," said Madden.

"It's a lot more cost effective to just get in our car and drive down to Myrtle Beach and there's a lot of activities, a lot of things to do here," added Sarver.

According to Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean, advertising in other markets is paying off.

Right now they are promoting the area as a Valentine's Day getaway in 12 cities.

One area the chamber says they've seen an increase in visitors from is Atlanta.

That's partly attributed to the availability of direct flights.