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      Tourism experts: Easter weekend could set tone for season

      Many people on the Grand Strand hope a good tourist season creates jobs around the area.

      With Easter weekend the unofficial start of the season, local tourism experts say this weekend could help to set the tone for the season.

      Visitors NewsChannel 15 spoke with say, after a more than a year of pretty frugal spending, they were ready for a vacation.

      These visitors come for many reasons.

      "The weather has been beautiful. When we flew down here it was pouring down rain in New York and we flew through the rain. Then we got through the rain and then it was beautiful... I'm loving it!" exclaimed Aminta Fredericks, from New York.

      "It's spring break and I just assumed that it would be a lot of crazy fun stuff to do," said Mona Tanny, from Raleigh, NC.

      "It was the only weekend open for us," admitted John Wieber, from Michigan.

      Well, whatever the reason, some made the long trip to the Grand Strand.

      "It was a 14 hour drive," said Mike Duke of Louisiana. "You had to really want to come to Myrtle Beach to come that far," joked Sissy Duke, finishing her husbands sentence.

      Then there were some who made the trip a bit longer than it had to be.

      "We drove 16 hours, but we got lost twice so it actually ended up being 22," admitted John Wieber.

      Getting lost was not even an option one year ago for Richard McFadden of Frederick, MD.

      "We wouldn't have thought about it," said McFadden, talking about a trip to the Grand Strand just one year ago.

      But this year, "We think people will be waking up and saying look at what's there and we're going to go," said Gary Loftus with the Coastal Carolina University's Center for Economic Development.

      Loftus said that's perhaps contributing to the fact that more than 70% of Grand Strand hotel rooms are booked for the Easter weekend. Loftus expects that number to jump to more than 80% by the end of the weekend.

      He says, people are ready to, sort of, let loose.

      "Despite the economy, there's pent up demand out there," continued Loftus.

      "It's been tough because I got laid off last September, so, I am not spending as much but I saved for this. I wanted to come down," said Aminta Fredericks.

      Remember Richard McFadden? Last year a vacation wasn't on the radar. Ask him about this year.

      "We're splurging," he said. "We're buying, kids are buying - I think it's better. For us, a lot better than a year or two years ago," continued McFadden.

      After all, if nothing else, a vacation is just, "Important," as Aminta Fredericks put it. "It is, and I haven't had a vacation in a very long time," she continued.

      Perhaps the only thing finer than a vacation, is enjoying one that's long overdue.

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