MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — South Carolina's coast is gearing up for millions of visitors this tourist season, but things are not yet back to normal because of the coronavirus.
"Myrtle Beach is a different animal, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said. "We are like the melting pot for vacationers, we get everybody here and we welcome everybody here."
Bethune said the past several weekends have already been busy with visitors, mainly families.
"I don't want to say that we weren't concerned because we've been prepared," Bethune said. "We started planning a couple of months ago for the influx of tourist coming back to the area."
As more and more people get vaccinated, some restrictions are being lifted. It is important to know what rules and laws are in place because of COVID-19 if you decide to travel.
"We just want our visitors to just be responsible and respectful of our community," Bethune said.
Bethune said a mask order remains in place, and they are patrolling the beach. Their mask order last until the end of the month and Bethune said some of their orders may be revised.
"From what we are already seeing, it's going to be a record year in Myrtle Beach," Bethune said. "We've had record crowds the past two weekends, which our business community desperately needs that to recover from COVID-19, but it's a balancing act because as much as we need the business and want people to come here, we want people to come here and travel safely and responsibly, and that means taking personal responsibility."
Over in Hilton Head, Bill Miles, President and CEO of Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce, said their beaches are looking a lot busier this year, too.
"This time last year there was certainly the fear of the unknown and business was not good at all this year, fortunately we have rebounded," Miles said.
Hilton Head Island also has a mask order, and Miles said they are hopeful to have visitors while practicing needed safety measures.
"We are encouraging our business community as well as our residents to continue following those protocols, and we think if we do that with the number of vaccinations that have gone into peoples arms, it should be a safe and fun summer," Miles said.