By JESSICAH LAWRENCE
It is peak tourism season for the city of Beaufort as visitors travel to enjoy its warm, seasonal beauty.
But with Hurricane Matthew disrupting the October crowds, an organization is attempting to spread the word that visitors are clear to visit the coastal town once again.
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce dedicated $15,000 for advertising to tell areas like Charlotte, Atlanta, Greenville and Columbia that Beaufort survived, recovered and wants visitors.
Robb Wells of the chamber told City Council the organization is doing everything it can to recoup the economic loss the hurricane brought to the area.
“We wanted to get the message out that the ‘coast is clear’ and it is OK to travel. Last year, we had another disaster with the 1,000-year flood and we struggled to communicate,” Wells said.
“This time we set up a website with area businesses ahead of time to share information on accommodations, businesses and attractions as they reopened.”
The website encouraged visitors to double-check their hotel reservations since resorts like Fripp Island shut down their accommodations for weeks.
Through digital media, radio slots and print ads, the chamber spent $15,000 in reserve funds to spread awareness to potential tourists over a two-week span.
Wells said he anticipated about a 31 percent decrease in visitors from the time the hurricane evacuation started Oct. 5 until re-entry Oct. 9.
“It will take the rest of the year to recover from this loss and even then we’ll be lucky to break even,” Wells told council.
Councilman Stephen Murray asked how neighboring cities fared.
Wells said he guessed that many communities will feel the impact and Hilton Head Island was estimating about a $20 million economic loss. However, Wells believes that number will climb.
“The fall is our peak season, unlike Hilton Head and North Myrtle Beach when they have the most visitors in the summer,” Wells said.
The chamber is working to receive a specific monetary loss estimate from a study by the University of South Carolina Beaufort.
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