Even if we weren’t there at the time, many longtime visitors are likely familiar with images of the small beach town Myrtle Beach once was. It’s amazing how much has changed over the years.

In 2016, Myrtle Beach hosted a record 18.6 million visitors. There are approximately 157,000 rooms to rent during peak season, 1,800 full service restaurants, 2.7 million rounds of golf played annually and 7 live theaters with seating for 7,500.

One thing that has stayed remarkably the same, though: our industry’s unique emphasis on welcoming visitors from near and far, which has helped position travel and tourism as an economic power in the lives of local residents.

Nationwide, the travel industry is a top-10 employer in 49 states and the District of Columbia. International travel is our country’s No. 2 export. One in nine Americans depend on travel to and within the U.S. for their employment—and it’s not just those directly working in the travel industry, either: overall, travel supports 15.6 million jobs and is a $2.4 trillion U.S. industry.

In 2017, travel generated $75.6 billion in state and local tax revenue, more than enough to pay all state and local police and firefighters, or 1.25 million public school teachers (preschool and k—12) across the U.S.

Travel is powerful for cities and states, and Myrtle Beach is no exception. Coastal Carolina University estimates tourism accounts for a $7 billion economic impact and another $2.2 billion in labor impact and 83,000 jobs throughout our local community.

Think back on how travel to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, looked for a visitor in 1960. You’re probably conjuring up images of quaint mom-and-pop businesses, like tour operators, hotels and restaurants, fueled by eager visitors hoping to hear beach music and dance the shag. Now re-envision 2018: our music and entertainment options have grown, but the strength of small businesses supported by travel has not. And 84 percent of travel and travel-related businesses are small businesses.

That’s why it’s so important to keep welcoming visitors to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina—and why our industry is highlighting “Travel Then and Now” during National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) 2018, May 6-12. We encourage you to join us in observing NTTW this year, and celebrate all that travel does for the Myrtle Beach area, and for our country as a whole.

Here are just a couple ways to get involved:

  • Contact your member of Congress and tell them about why travel is important to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
  • Get social and engage with the #NTTW18 hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This year’s National Travel and Tourism Week is more than just another campaign. It’s a movement that positions the travel industry as a primary driver in the U.S. economy, and an important part of our daily lives here in Myrtle Beach. For more information on how travel and tourism impacts the Grand Strand and Myrtle Beach area, check out www.TourismWorksForUs.com.