As we usher in the new year, I want to express my gratitude to the entire membership for welcoming me to the chamber and CVB and supporting the organization during a year of great transition. Key to the success of the transition was the incredible leadership of Immediate Past Chair Carla Schussler. My gratitude knows no bounds when I think of the time and energy Carla gave to me personally and to the chamber overall in 2018.
I also want to thank our incoming Chair Matt Klugman, who chaired our Marketing Council in 2018 and answered the call to step into the demanding role of chair of the board of directors. His marketing expertise and good humor have already helped us get off to a great start in 2019.
I have been so impressed with the level of support and engagement the entire board of directors provides to our chamber. These tremendous business leaders give generously of their time and talent and we thank them for their selfless service.
We had a lot of ambitious goals for 2018 and despite the challenges of a cold winter, rainy spring and Hurricane Florence and flooding, we achieved many of our goals in membership and in marketing for tourism.
On the business development side for the chamber, we continued to grow and serve 2,800 investors. Our retention rate is spectacular at 87 percent. Most importantly, we delivered 38 successful networking events, as well as 63 ribbon cutting ceremonies and 86 Chamber Academy educational sessions last year.
A few big accomplishments of 2018 stand out for tourism promotion, including a record-breaking number of people traveling to the Grand Strand via the Myrtle Beach International Airport. We now boast 50 nonstop flights to MYR and saw passenger counts above 2017’s record breaking levels. We generated over $180 million in earned media coverage and drove increased demand for our destination among first time visitors. We delivered over $200 in revenue per marketing dollar invested (ROI) from our tourism campaigns.
It was also a very fruitful year on the legislative advocacy front. Important work was accomplished to keep advancing our priorities in workforce, tourism funding, water quality and beach renourishment, as well as transportation, including I-73 initiatives at the local, state and federal level.
We are excited to kick off a year of transformation at the chamber, to achieve our mission of creating an environment of economic vitality. We will continue to be a positive force for growing our business community and tourism. As our tagline states so powerfully, we are here to Protect, Promote and Improve our community.
Thank you, our member investors for collaborating with us to make 2019 truly a memorable year.
Wishing you a prosperous 2019!
President and CEO
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce