HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) – A financial nightmare — that’s what many businesses and rental companies in the Lowcountry called the spring COVID-19 shutdown.
But as it turns out even with the pandemic, this Halloween will be much less scary, and more profitable than usual.
“This is our check-in room, it is a remote check-in room for all our guests,” said Dru Brown of Island Time rentals.
Brown showed off his new no contact check-in room for his customers. Envelopes are left behind and there is even a separate entrance so they can pick up keys without ever seeing a staff member.
Brown says this fall, more people than ever have been coming and renting on the Island. So many customers, in fact, he has had to hire a third property manager and has doubled his reservation staff just to keep up with demand.
“In the past for the most part we didn’t see people traveling for 4-5 days in a row, and we see that now,” said Brown. “This past weekend we had 25% of our inventory book between Thursday and Friday for the weekend.”
Brown says it’s not just the short-term visitors either. On Monday alone he had 5 inquiries from people who want to stay 1, 2, or even 3 months.
Island Time isn’t alone with their banner business weeks, according to the Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.
“Going into October advanced reservations are up 29%. What we are seeing is that pent-up demand for travel,” said Bill Miles, President, and CEO of the Hilton-Head Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.
“Our guided tours, our boat rentals, other rentals has had just a remarkable season, best ever,” says Mike Overton, Owner, Outside Hilton Head
Outside Hilton Head says while the corporate group outings side of the business has deteriorated, the “Outside” portion of their name has drawn folks to their store for hiking, fishing and hunting gear, and to spend money at a rate he has not seen in a fall season — possibly ever.
“There’s not a lot of people looking for a fancy new dress right now, but they do want to buy a kayak,” says Overton. “They do want to get an electric bike, they do want a sun shirt so when they are on a boat they are comfortable, or a jacket to hiking in in the mountains. With the outside its much more function vs fashion.”
Fashion is something the staff at Island Girl knows very well.
The Coligny Plaza store says the amount of traffic it has seen from tourists and locals alike is almost as if summer never ended; 20% more sales than last month and last year.
“It hasn’t really slowed down, its stayed constant, we thought we would be slower right now but we are booming, our business is up 20% of the month,” said Emily Bonvissuto, Island Girl manager.
All these businesses believe this boom will continue for at least the rest of the month. The Chamber says it could be even longer.
Thanksgiving rentals are already booking up fast, and even December, usually a dead time for tourists, may see a significant uptick.