By Paul Gable
The surprising announcement by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce two days ago ending the Sun Fun Festival appears to be one more step away from tourism along the Grand Strand.
Coming as it does on the heels of another attempt by county council chairman Tom Rice to end the Harley Davidson May bike rally, it means that the two longest running festivals associated with Myrtle Beach tourism are being sent to the scrap heap by those who see themselves as the leaders of the local business establishment.
“The MBACC board of directors has made the decision to suspend certain events this year that are not self-sustaining. With the interests of both the membership and organization in mind, the board of directors has decided that general events held in-market in 2012 that are not self-sustained by sponsorships, ticket sales or event-specific revenue, should be suspended so our out-of-market advertising investment can be maximized and we can invest in real estate promotion,” read the key elements of a press release from the MBACC announcing the cancellation of Sun Fun.
There are several things wrong with this press release. Events such as the Sun Fun Festival are not meant to pay for themselves. They are used just like loss leaders at the supermarket to draw people to the area so local businesses get the advantage of additional consumers.
Sun Fun, specifically, was started in the early 1950’s to kick start the summer season crowds several weeks earlier than had been the case.
Additionally, the reference to self-sustaining events goes away next weekend when the Coastal Uncorked festival makes its 2012 appearance. Records show that event is not self-sustaining, but receives considerable public money from the Myrtle Beach City Council as well as money from the Chamber.
Fortunately Horry County Council voted 11-1 against giving $40,000 in A-Tax money to Coastal Uncorked. The only vote for appropriation of county public dollars to the event (?) – leader of the Take Back May movement and now council chairman Tom Rice.
Coastal Uncorked was originally started as part of the Take Back May movement to replace lost revenue from running off the bikers. Not only has it not worked, it doesn’t even take place in May anymore.
But, the part of the press release that bothers me most is “so our out-of-market advertising investment can be maximized and we can invest in real estate promotion.”
It seems that the “Ad Tax for Tourism” has now morphed into the “Ad Tax for Real Estate Development.” I’m not sure this is even legal with the way state law was written for the “1% Local Option Tourism Development Fee”, but such considerations will not stop our “local leaders.”
Others in the media have demonstrated the interlocking association of the largest recipients of the one cent sales tax revenue with campaign donations to local and state candidates in what is called by some as the “Coastal Kickback” scandal. That is certainly one area for continued investigation.
However, this also appears to be a second step in hurting small businesses that count on such events as bike week and Sun Fun for a major portion of their revenue.
When we read “and we can invest in real estate promotion” we ask, is this really about a land grab by certain members of the local establishment at the expense of small business?