New flights to Texas take off
May 05, 2012 (Menafn - The Sun News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Travelers will have an easier route between Myrtle Beach and Dallas-Fort Worth with the start of non-stop flights last week.
Spirit Airlines will fly to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport three times a week, opening a new market for visitors to get to the Grand Strand and giving locals an easier route to the west. The flights will run during the summer.
Having a non-stop route could make Myrtle Beach a new option for golfers and travelers in the Dallas area who might not have considered the Grand Strand previously because of the long drive, tourism and golf promoters have said. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce already has started running ads in that area touting the beach's affordability and the new non-stop flights.
"We see a lot of potential with the Dallas-Fort Worth market," chamber spokeswoman Nora Battle said. "This gives us a way to tap into those visitors."
It's been two years since Myrtle Beach had non-stop flights to Dallas, and those only lasted seven months. American Eagle Airlines flew to Dallas in 2010, but didn't resume the seasonal service, saying there weren't enough travelers to justify the expense. American carried about 6,100 passengers out of Myrtle Beach on the Dallas flights during the seven months in 2010 they operated, according to statistics from Myrtle Beach International Airport.
Local officials blame the flights' failure on the small, 50-seat regional jets American used, adding that it couldn't sell all the seats because it had to account for the weight of golf clubs -- not because of a lack of demand.
"I think our challenge is to prove that these flights are sustainable and profitable, which will bode well for the destination in long term," Bill Golden, president of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, said in an email. "The goal is to naturally increase frequency, and extend the seasons for the flights, and when we can accomplish that, the impact on golf and tourism in general becomes far greater."
Spirit's flights to Dallas-Fort Worth run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Through June 20, the flight will leave Dallas-Fort Worth at 3:45 p.m. and arrive in Myrtle Beach at 7:25 p.m., then leave Myrtle Beach at 8:10 p.m. and arrive in Dallas at 10:15 p.m. The flight times shift to earlier in the day starting June 21, leaving Dallas at 7:30 a.m. and arriving in Myrtle Beach at 11:10 a.m. -- golfers prefer earlier arrival times so they can play a round as soon as they land -- then leaving Myrtle Beach at 11:50 a.m. and arriving in Dallas-Fort Worth at 1:55 p.m.
"We worked very closely with [marketing group Myrtle Beach] Golf Holiday, in particular, in analyzing that data for Dallas-Fort Worth -- it provides a huge opportunity for the golf market," Lauren Morris, spokeswoman for Myrtle Beach International Airport, said in an email. "DFW also provides more access for MYR travelers heading to and from markets west of the Mississippi."
Spirit, which carries half the passengers annually at Myrtle Beach International Airport, riled some passengers last week when it announced that it was raising fees for carry-on bags from 45 to 100 starting Nov. 6 for passengers who wait to pay the fee at the boarding gate. The price for a carry-on paid for at an airport kiosk will jump to 50 from 40.
Tourism week on tap
The Grand Strand will celebrate the beach's economic driver next week with National Travel and Tourism Week.
The official high-five to the industry kicked off Saturday and continues through May 13.
Tourism promoters along the Grand Strand will celebrate the beach's nearly 15 million annual visitors by offering snacks in area welcome centers, approving resolutions proclaiming it a special week and with musical performances at Myrtle Beach International Airport to greet passengers.
"This is a thank you for them," said Ruth Anne Ellis, director of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce's visitors center at 1521 U.S. 17 South where tourists will get cookies and snacks next week.
Ads touting tourism's effect on the Grand Strand economy also will appear in newspapers and on TV. Tourism in Horry and Georgetown counties generated 16.8 million in accommodations taxes, 9.5 million in admissions taxes and 9.7 billion in retail sales during the 2010-11 budget year. The industry also provides most of the area's jobs.
Congress created National Tourism Week in 1983 and the first one was celebrated in May 1984.
Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at email@example.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.
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