Summer rentals hold up in pandemic
As anyone who has driven on Highway 17 this summer can tell you, the coronavirus has not kept the tourists away.
The occupancy rate for vacation rentals in July was 94 percent in Pawleys Island, and 90 percent for Garden City and Murrells Inlet, Mark Stevens, the county’s director of tourism development, said.
“We are not seeing collapsing numbers,” Stevens said. “In fact, we’re seeing quite the opposite.”
“We are certainly cautiously optimistic about the numbers we are seeing,” said Beth Stedman, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.
Betsy Altman of Pawleys Island Realty, said after the town of Pawleys Island rescinded its ban on short-term rentals this spring, last-minute reservations skyrocketed.
“People just wanted to come to the beach,” Altman said. “Some of those new reservations had not been to Pawleys before. But they were looking for single-family, quiet beach places that they could be safe with their family.”
Will Dieter of The Dieter Co. in Litchfield said all the area real estate companies were “pretty nervous” heading into the rental season.
“It was a pretty steep learning curve, we all had to figure out a lot of things” Dieter said. “I think we really have a lot to be thankful for in our area because of things that make us unique. Not being in those big crowded areas made people still able to travel here.”
Altman and Dieter said the majority of people who had to cancel spring reservations rebooked for either this summer or fall or next year.
“We really try to push those so people don’t lose,” Altman said. “The majority of our vacationers are repeaters anyway. They just want to be here at Pawleys”
Dieter said the summer and fall numbers are “trending ahead” of last year.
“I think we’re going to look back when it’s all said and done, and find it’s a positive year,” he added.
The coronavirus has changed the way real estate companies do business.
Pawleys Island Realty changed check-in times from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and check-out times from 10 a.m. to 9 a.m. to give the housekeeping staff more time to clean.
“We’re purchasing disinfecting chemicals and products to make the properties safer,” Altman said. “We’ve added a disinfecting fee because it’s expensive and people are happy to pay for it knowing you have that peace of mind that you did take care of the door handles and the light switch covers.”
The Dieter Co. set up desks outside for vacationers to check-in without having to go into the office. Dieter said the outdoor process was more organized.
“That seemed to go really well,” Dieter said. “I think some of these things are here to stay.”
The company has also invested in cleaning products.
Dieter said there’s been a learning curve when it comes to the enhanced cleaning procedures, including figuring out that sanitizing and disinfecting are different things.
“I think we’ve all learned over the last several months about what was going on,” he said. “Who even knew that those two words didn’t mean the exact same thing?”
Pawleys Island Realty has started marketing to people who want to rent a beach house where they can work and their kids can do online schooling.
“This is changing a lot of how we do things in a lot of different ways,” Altman said.
Dieter said people looking for rentals have started inquiring about the quality and speed of the internet service.
“That has definitely been a question that a lot of folks have been asking,” he added.