Celebrating Thanksgiving by the beach is hardly new. Settlers in the Plymouth colony were the first to do so near the Atlantic Ocean in 1621.
But the rate at which families are renting houses and hotel rooms for the week of Thanksgiving suggests it's becoming more of a tradition on Hilton Head Island.
"We've seen a 144 percent increase in reservation revenue already for Thanksgiving week over last year," said Tom Ridgway, owner of Hilton Head Rentals & Golf.
Ridgway said about 80 percent of that revenue came from homes that have been reserved, indicating the island is becoming a destination for families looking to celebrate the holiday together.
"It really has morphed into a very good rental week," said Bill Haley, vice president of marketing for Resort Rentals of Hilton Head Island.
Haley reported Thanksgiving week revenue at his agency is up 13 percent over 2010, and the occupancy rate has gone up steadily over the past few years.
He said he first noticed an increase in Thanksgiving week visitors after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"A lot of people have come to use this week here as a family reunion," Haley said. "It seems like they thought, 'Don't put off something you've been thinking about doing.' "
Haley said the occupancy rate of his agency's available rental homes is expected to surpass 80 percent this week (, and he's come to look forward to the week amid otherwise sluggish sales in the winter months.
At the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, almost 80 percent of its 412 rooms are booked for the week, another increase from 2010, according to Skip James, director of sales and marketing.
"We're probably going to have a packed house for our Thanksgiving Day buffet," James said.
"They might not all be staying with us, but it definitely reflects an increase in people staying at timeshares or with relatives on the island that week."
Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.