With news that Tropical Storm Arthur will likely pass quietly off the Lowcountry coast, area businesses are gearing up for the busiest tourism weekend of the summer.
Beaufort County hotels and resorts say the promise of waterfront fireworks and all-day barbecues will make for a successful Independence Day weekend. Most beachfront resorts are booked, representatives said Wednesday.
"This is the weekend we see the most sustained demand of the summer," said Gail Wargo, director of sales and marketing at The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa. "The nights leading in (to the Fourth of July) and the nights leading out are our busiest."
The holiday weekend kicks off the most profitable month for Beaufort County's tourism industry, according to University of South Carolina Beaufort hospitality management professor John Salazar.
Last year, July accounted for 11.5 percent of the year's 2.46 million visitors. In 2012, 11.8 percent of 2.44 million tourists visited in July, according to his statistics.
"The Fourth of July and July in general carry the biggest weight," Salazar said. "And Hilton Head carries the lion's share."
Hilton Head beachfront resorts such as The Beach House and the Westin are booked for the weekend, despite the threat of Arthur earlier this week, representatives said.
"We've been monitoring it since it began," said Mike DiLeone, director of sales at The Beach House on South Forest Beach Drive. "It looks like the weather is going to cooperate."
At Fripp Island Resort, rentals ranging from one-bedroom efficiencies to seven-bedroom homes were booked months ago, said director of marketing Alissa Murrie. The resort's 150 properties are filled for the weekend.
City Loft Hotel in Beaufort is also booked solid. Assistant general manager Randy LaGrone said a few patrons have called to ask about the storm, but "we've told them it's well east of us and they've kept their reservations."
In Jasper County, travelers looking for a few bangs for their bucks are stopping at fireworks shops for bottle rockets, Roman candles and sparklers, shop managers said.
At Fireworks Superstore in Hardeeville, powerful fireworks like the Time Bandit Torpedo are selling well, store manager Deborah Hayward said.
"This time of year, people like anything that goes 'Boom!' " Papa Joe's Fireworks manager Dot Smith said.
Nearly half a million state residents will hit the road for the holiday, according to AAA Carolinas, the most in 13 years.
Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.
- Ahead of July 4th, storm nears popular NC coast, July 2, 2014
- Fourth of July celebrations in the Lowcountry, July 1, 2014
- Strong start to tourism season expected Memorial Day weekend, May 23, 2014